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TRACES - Project 3

SP3 Vegetation Change & Climate

The climatic history in each catchment serves as backdrop for the human impact and has to be considered as a reinforcing and accelerating factor for ecosystem change. In order to reconstruct the concurrent climatic changes SP3 will analyse stable hydrogen isotope compositions of plant-specific lipids in the surface samples and archives, providing information on changes in hydrologic conditions. Additionally, stable carbon isotope analyses of the plant lipids yield information on vegetation type changes (C3/C4 plants) in the catchments. Changes in pollen assemblages (contract with UKZN, Pietermaritzburg) will be studied in parallel to unravel the detailed development of biome structure and vegetation diversity in response to climatic and anthropogenic effects. Analyses of specific molecular markers for biomass burning and micro-charcoal will shed light on the fire history in each catchment and thus vegetation disturbance. SP3 will provide data on changes in terrestrial organic matter contributions to SP1, 2 and 4 and data on molecular plasticisers to SP2.