Reconstructing recent land degradation in the semi-arid Karoo of South Africa: a palaeoecological study at Compassberg, Eastern Cape

T M Mighall, Ian D L Foster, Kate M Rowntree, John Boardman

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    Abstract

    This paper forms part of an ongoing, multidisciplinary study of land degradation in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. A series of studies of erosion, runoff and the development of gullies, badlands and sediment delivery to small farm reservoirs in the Sneeuberg uplands have shown that the semi-arid Karoo is vulnerable to soil erosion. Cereal cultivation and increased livestock numbers are thought to have played a major role in triggering erosion over the last 200 years. To test this assumption, we analysed pollen, non-pollen palynomorphs and microscopic charcoal from sediments that have infilled one farm dam since the 1930s and which is located in the Sneeuberg uplands of the Eastern Cape. The results, supported by sediment source tracing, indicate that soil erosion was closely associated with agricultural activity. The reconstructions appear to be in agreement with historical documentary records. However, records of livestock stocking densities were found to be insufficiently detailed to enable direct matching against microfossil proxies for grazing, especially the coprophilous fungal spore, Sporormiella type. This study demonstrates the importance of combining sediment tracing techniques with palynological analyses to provide a more informed interpretation of land use changes as recorded by lake and reservoir sediments.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalLand Degradation & Development
    Volume23
    Issue number6
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2012

    Fingerprint

    land degradation
    sediment
    soil erosion
    livestock
    farm
    erosion
    badlands
    stocking density
    gully
    microfossil
    charcoal
    cereal
    land use change
    spore
    pollen
    grazing
    dam
    Africa
    runoff
    lake

    Keywords

    • Karoo
    • pollen
    • non-pollen palynomorphs
    • soil erosion
    • cultivation
    • grazing
    • coprophilous fungi

    Cite this

    @article{574eb83a6ddc4e6284cb7e79e1e5f6a7,
    title = "Reconstructing recent land degradation in the semi-arid Karoo of South Africa: a palaeoecological study at Compassberg, Eastern Cape",
    abstract = "This paper forms part of an ongoing, multidisciplinary study of land degradation in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. A series of studies of erosion, runoff and the development of gullies, badlands and sediment delivery to small farm reservoirs in the Sneeuberg uplands have shown that the semi-arid Karoo is vulnerable to soil erosion. Cereal cultivation and increased livestock numbers are thought to have played a major role in triggering erosion over the last 200 years. To test this assumption, we analysed pollen, non-pollen palynomorphs and microscopic charcoal from sediments that have infilled one farm dam since the 1930s and which is located in the Sneeuberg uplands of the Eastern Cape. The results, supported by sediment source tracing, indicate that soil erosion was closely associated with agricultural activity. The reconstructions appear to be in agreement with historical documentary records. However, records of livestock stocking densities were found to be insufficiently detailed to enable direct matching against microfossil proxies for grazing, especially the coprophilous fungal spore, Sporormiella type. This study demonstrates the importance of combining sediment tracing techniques with palynological analyses to provide a more informed interpretation of land use changes as recorded by lake and reservoir sediments.",
    keywords = "Karoo, pollen, non-pollen palynomorphs, soil erosion, cultivation, grazing, coprophilous fungi",
    author = "Mighall, {T M} and Foster, {Ian D L} and Rowntree, {Kate M} and John Boardman",
    year = "2012",
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    doi = "10.1002/ldr.2176",
    language = "English",
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    Reconstructing recent land degradation in the semi-arid Karoo of South Africa: a palaeoecological study at Compassberg, Eastern Cape. / Mighall, T M; Foster, Ian D L; Rowntree, Kate M; Boardman, John.

    In: Land Degradation & Development, Vol. 23, No. 6, 03.07.2012.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    TY - JOUR

    T1 - Reconstructing recent land degradation in the semi-arid Karoo of South Africa: a palaeoecological study at Compassberg, Eastern Cape

    AU - Mighall, T M

    AU - Foster, Ian D L

    AU - Rowntree, Kate M

    AU - Boardman, John

    PY - 2012/7/3

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    N2 - This paper forms part of an ongoing, multidisciplinary study of land degradation in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. A series of studies of erosion, runoff and the development of gullies, badlands and sediment delivery to small farm reservoirs in the Sneeuberg uplands have shown that the semi-arid Karoo is vulnerable to soil erosion. Cereal cultivation and increased livestock numbers are thought to have played a major role in triggering erosion over the last 200 years. To test this assumption, we analysed pollen, non-pollen palynomorphs and microscopic charcoal from sediments that have infilled one farm dam since the 1930s and which is located in the Sneeuberg uplands of the Eastern Cape. The results, supported by sediment source tracing, indicate that soil erosion was closely associated with agricultural activity. The reconstructions appear to be in agreement with historical documentary records. However, records of livestock stocking densities were found to be insufficiently detailed to enable direct matching against microfossil proxies for grazing, especially the coprophilous fungal spore, Sporormiella type. This study demonstrates the importance of combining sediment tracing techniques with palynological analyses to provide a more informed interpretation of land use changes as recorded by lake and reservoir sediments.

    AB - This paper forms part of an ongoing, multidisciplinary study of land degradation in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. A series of studies of erosion, runoff and the development of gullies, badlands and sediment delivery to small farm reservoirs in the Sneeuberg uplands have shown that the semi-arid Karoo is vulnerable to soil erosion. Cereal cultivation and increased livestock numbers are thought to have played a major role in triggering erosion over the last 200 years. To test this assumption, we analysed pollen, non-pollen palynomorphs and microscopic charcoal from sediments that have infilled one farm dam since the 1930s and which is located in the Sneeuberg uplands of the Eastern Cape. The results, supported by sediment source tracing, indicate that soil erosion was closely associated with agricultural activity. The reconstructions appear to be in agreement with historical documentary records. However, records of livestock stocking densities were found to be insufficiently detailed to enable direct matching against microfossil proxies for grazing, especially the coprophilous fungal spore, Sporormiella type. This study demonstrates the importance of combining sediment tracing techniques with palynological analyses to provide a more informed interpretation of land use changes as recorded by lake and reservoir sediments.

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