oa South African Journal of Science - A 3000-year isotopic record from a stalagmite in Cold Air Cave, Makapansgat Valley, Northern Province

Volume 95, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0038-2353
  • E-ISSN: 1996-7489



Detailed, high-resolution palaeoclimatic records are essential for understanding process and variability of late Holocene climate change, yet suitable proxies for the largely arid southern African region are rare. Under certain conditions, cave speleothems can provide high-resolution records that sensitively reflect local climate variables and provide clues to the regional response of larger-scale climatic features. Here we report 18O/16O and 13C/12C ratios from a well-dated, continuous, aragonitic stalagmite from Cold Air Cave In the Makapansgat Valley, Northern Province, South Africa. Carbon and oxygen isotope records are broadly in phase although amplitude of carbon isotope shifts is not large by carbon isotope standards. The data suggest that C4 grasses were more abundant in wetter, warmer conditions and somewhat suppressed in drier, cooler conditions. Amplitude of oxygen isotope shifts is high and suggests a positive relationship with temperature, unlike the Cango Cave stalagmite. An extended period of oxygen isotope depletion, beginning at about AD 1400 and culminating in a marked depression at about AD 1700, is interpreted as the regional manifestation of the Little Ice Age.

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