Paper No. 309-2
Presentation Time: 8:15 AM
ICDP PROJECT DEEPCHALLA: RECONSTRUCTING ~250,000 YEARS OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY ON THE EAST AFRICAN EQUATOR (Invited Presentation)
Sediments on the bottom of Lake Challa, a 92-m deep crater lake on the border of Kenya and Tanzania near Mt. Kilimanjaro, contain a uniquely long and continuous record of past climate and environmental change in easternmost equatorial Africa. Supported in part by the International Continental Scientific Drilling Programme (ICDP), the DeepCHALLA project has now recovered this sediment record down to 214.8 m below the lake floor, with 100% recovery of the uppermost 121.3 m (the last ~160 kyr BP) and ca.85% recovery of the older part of the sequence, down to the lowermost distinct reflector identified in seismic stratigraphy. This acoustic basement represents a ca.2-m thick layer of coarsely laminated, diatom-rich organic mud mixed with volcanic sand and silt deposited ~250 kyr ago, overlying an estimated 20-30 m of unsampled lacustrine deposits representing the earliest phase of lake development. Down-hole logging produced profiles of in-situ sediment composition that confer an absolute depth- scale to both the recovered cores and the seismic stratigraphy. An estimated 74% of the recovered sequence is finely laminated (varved), and continuously so over the upper 72.3 m (the last ~90 kyr). All other sections display at least cm-scale lamination, demonstrating persistence of a tranquil, profundal depositional environment throughout lake history. The sequence is interrupted only by 32 visible tephra layers 2 to 9 mm thick; and by several dozen fine-grained turbidites up to 108 cm thick, most of which are clearly bracketed between a non-erosive base and a diatom-laden cap. Tie points between sediment markers and the corresponding seismic reflectors support a preliminary age model inferring a near-constant rate of sediment accumulation over at least the last glacial cycle (140 kyr BP to present). This great time span combined with the exquisite temporal resolution of the Lake Challa sediments provides great opportunities to study past tropical climate dynamics at both short (inter-annual to decadal) and long (glacial-interglacial) time scales; and to assess the multi-faceted impact of this climate change on the region’s freshwater resources, the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems, and the history of the African landscape in which modern humans (our species, Homo sapiens) originally evolved and have lived ever since.