Paleolimnological investigations of anthropogenic environmental change in Lake Tanganyika: III. Physical stratigraphy and charcoal analysis

Manuel R. Palacios-Fest, Andrew S. Cohen, Kiram Lezzar, Louis Nahimana, Brandon M. Tanner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Documenting the history of catchment deforestation using paleolimnological data involves understanding both the timing and magnitude of change in the input of erosional products to the downstream lake. These products include both physically-eroded soil and the byproducts of burning, primarily charcoal, which arise from both intentional and climatically-induced changes in fire frequency. As a part of the Lake Tanganyika Biodiversity Project's special study on sedimentation, we have investigated the sedimentological composition of seven dated cores from six deltas or delta complexes along the east coast of Lake Tanganyika: the Lubulungu River delta, the Kabesi River delta, the Nyasanga/Kahama River delta, and the Mwamgongo River delta in Tanzania, and the Nyamusenyi River delta and Karonge/Kirasa River delta in Burundi. Changes in sediment mass accumulation rates, composition, and charcoal flux in the littoral and sublittoral zones of the lake that can be linked to watershed disturbance factors in the deltas were examined. Total organic carbon accumulation rates, in particular, are strongly linked to higher sediment mass accumulation from terrestrial sources, and show striking mid-20th century increases at disturbed watershed deltas that may indicate a connection between increased watershed erosion and increased nearshore productivity. However, changes in sedimentation patterns are not solely correlated with the 20th century period of increasing human population in the basin. Fire activity, as recorded by charcoal accumulation rates, was also elevated during arid intervals of the 13th-early 19th centuries. Some differences between northern and southern sedimentation histories appear to be correlated with different histories of human population in central Tanzania in contrast with northern Tanzania and Burundi.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-49
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Paleolimnology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2005


  • Catchment deforestation
  • Charcoal
  • Lake Tanganyika
  • Sedimentation rates
  • Soil erosion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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