Multi-proxy palaeosol evidence for late Quaternary (MIS 4) environmental and climate shifts on the coasts of South Africa

Peter N. Eze, Michael E. Meadows

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Palaeosols are common along the coastline of southern South Africa as stacked aeolian dune deposits but have rarely been studied. We selected two late Quaternary palaeosols exposed in a marine cliff-face at Koeberg and coastal barrier dune at Goukamma, South Africa in order to improve our understanding of their pedogenesis and palaeoclimate dynamics. Palaeosol-based proxies explored include: elemental geochemistry by X-ray fluorescence spectrophotometry, δ13C and δ18O isotopes, micromorphology and clay mineralogy by x-ray diffraction. Selected physico-chemical soil properties were analyzed by routine laboratory procedures. The palaeosols comprise predominantly loamy sand to sandy clay loam textures, have a high pH (>6.5), and very low electrical conductivity (<0.89mScm-1). SiO2 and CaO are the most abundant of all the elements in the cambic and calcic horizons respectively. The low levels of Al in the parent materials most likely invalidated the applicability of chemical weathering indices (CIA) to assess weathering intensity. In the case of chemical index of weathering (CIW), the age and sedimentary settings of the palaeosols overruled the possibility for K metasomatism and illitization by metamorphism. The indices WI-1 and W1-2 developed by Darmody etal. (2005) appear more consistent with depth. The palaeo MAT computed from palaeosol carbonate oxygen isotope is 14 and 11°C for Koeberg and Goukamma respectively, while the maximum MAP obtained from the cambic horizon (Bw) of the Goukamma coastal barrier is 653mmy-1. The layering seen in the thin section of the calcic layer at Goukamma indicates deposition, possibly by sedimentary differentiation across a palaeo-slope. Clastic calcite and muscovite mica are the dominant minerals in these palaeosols indicating impeded chemical weathering. Similar to many other parts of the world, the coastlines of South Africa has experienced environmental and climate oscillations in the Quaternary. We conclude that along the southern South Africa coasts, a palaeosol based approach to palaeoenvironmental and palaeoclimate reconstruction in combination with other proxies such as pollen and marine based isotopes can provide insights into the environmental oscillations of the late Quaternary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-168
Number of pages10
JournalQuaternary International
Publication statusPublished - Sept 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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