Author(s): Castaeda IS, Mulitza S, Schefuss E, Lopes dos Santos RA, Sinninghe Damst JS,
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Abstract The carbon isotopic composition of individual plant leaf waxes (a proxy for C(3) vs. C(4) vegetation) in a marine sediment core collected from beneath the plume of Sahara-derived dust in northwest Africa reveals three periods during the past 192,000 years when the central Sahara/Sahel contained C(3) plants (likely trees), indicating substantially wetter conditions than at present. Our data suggest that variability in the strength of Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) is a main control on vegetation distribution in central North Africa, and we note expansions of C(3) vegetation during the African Humid Period (early Holocene) and within Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 3 ( approximately 50-45 ka) and MIS 5 ( approximately 120-110 ka). The wet periods within MIS 3 and 5 coincide with major human migration events out of sub-Saharan Africa. Our results thus suggest that changes in AMOC influenced North African climate and, at times, contributed to amenable conditions in the central Sahara/Sahel, allowing humans to cross this otherwise inhospitable region.
This article was published in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
and referenced in Journal of Earth Science & Climatic Change