Pollen analysis and palaeoenvironments of the central interior of South Africa: spring and cave deposits (Louis Scott)

In the 1950’s E.M. van Zinderen Bakker started studying pollen in the Quaternary deposits at Florisbad near Bloemfontein. Since then fossil pollen studies have continued to provide environmental data as one of the few methods of reconstructing changes in past conditions in the grassland and savanna biomes of South Africa. Building an understanding of past vegetation change in the region is important for answering questions about conditions under which prehistoric  inhabitants survived in the region and what potential climatic shifts may hold for the quality of our environment in the future. Knowledge of these changes allows us to explain our region’s role in the global earth system.  However, suitable deposits for pollen analysis in the study region are rare because most pollen grains in most deposit types are usually destroyed by unfavourable local conditions. We therefore focus our attention on the few available spring sites like Florisbad and Baden Baden where some deposits formed in reducing conditions and where unanswered questions about environmental history will be addressed. In cave deposits from sites like Wonderwerk Cave rare fossil pollen grains in stable dry conditions were preserved in dung or stalagmites and occur together with evidence of human and faunal presence.

Pollen in hyrax dung deposits from rock shelters in Southern Africa and Namibia (Louis Scott)

The palynology of Wonderwerk Cave (Louis Scott)

Various projects on the palynology of spring, wetland and lake deposits in Southern Africa (Louis Scott)