Vegetation response to rainfall variation and human impact in central Kenya during the past 1100 years

Henry F. Lamb, I. Darbyshire, D. Verschuren

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Pollen data from a 625 cm sediment core from Crescent Island Crater, a subbasin of Lake Naivasha, Kenya, provide an 1100-year record of vegetation change at a mean time resolution of 15 years. Earlier data from the same core show a record of lake depth (and thus inferred rainfall variation) in the form of changing sedimentary facies, supported by salinity inferences based on diatom and chironomid assemblages. Stratigraphic variation in the abundances of aquatic and semi-aquatic plants and chlorophyte algae generally supports the reconstructed lake depths. Woody Afromontane and woodland plant taxa decreased relative to Poaceae (grasses) during low rainfall periods, and increased during high rainfall periods. A decrease in the extent of lower montane forest coincident with favourable climatic conditions after about ad 1700 was probably caused byKikuyu immigration and population expansion around that time, as indicated by simultaneous appearance of the food crop Zea mays (maize). Increases in ruderal herbaceous and exotic tree pollen during the twentieth century indicate increased local landscape disturbance during the colonial period. There is little direct pollen evidence for accelerating clearance of the montane forest during recent decades.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-292
Number of pages8
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01 Feb 2003


  • Climatic change
  • Human impact
  • Kenya
  • Lake Naivasha
  • Late Holocene
  • Montane forest
  • Pollen
  • Savanna
  • Vegetation history


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