Scientific article

High-resolution fluvial records of Holocene environmental changes in the Sahel : the Yamé River at Ounjougou (Mali, West Africa)

Published inQuaternary science reviews, vol. 30, no. 5/6, p. 737-756
Publication date2011

The Yamé river, in the Bandiagara Plateau, Dogon Country, Mali, is characterised by extensive alluvial sedimentary records, particularly in the 1 km long Ounjougou reach where Holocene floodplain pockets are inset in the Pleistocene formations. These alluvial records have been investigated via geomorphologic fieldwork and sedimentologic and micromorphologic analyses and are supported by 79 radiocarbon dates. The alluvial deposits of the valley floor correspond to a vertical accretion of 3e10 m. The reconstruction of fluvial style changes provides evidence of four main aggradation periods. From 11,500 to 8760 cal. BP, the alluvial architecture and grain-size parameters indicate a wandering river. This period included phases of pulsed high-energy floods and avulsion related to a northward shift of the summer monsoon to around 14 degre N after 11,500 cal. BP. From 7800 to 5300 cal. BP, a swampy floodplain environment with standing water pools within a Sudanian savanna/woodland mosaic corresponds to the culmination of the Holocene humid period. From 3800 cal. BP onwards, rhythmic sedimentation attests to an increase in the duration and/or intensity of the dry season, giving a precise date for the local termination of the Holocene Optimum period. During the last two millennia and for the first time during the Holocene, the alluvial formations are progressively restricted whereas the colluvial deposits increase, indicating strong soil erosion and redeposition within the watershed related to an increase in human impact. Four major periods are characterised by incision (I1: ante 11,500, I2: 8760e7800; I3: 6790e6500 cal. BP; I4; 2400e1700 cal. BP) pointing to dramatic changes in fluvial style. They result from high-energy flood flows during dry spells and confirm the capacity of the floodplain pocket in the upstream reach of the Sahelian belt to record rapid Holocene climatic change.

  • Fluvial system
  • Climatic change
  • Human impact
  • Human peopling
  • Holocene
  • Sahel
  • Mali
  • West-Africa
Citation (ISO format)
LESPEZ, Laurent et al. High-resolution fluvial records of Holocene environmental changes in the Sahel : the Yamé River at Ounjougou (Mali, West Africa). In: Quaternary science reviews, 2011, vol. 30, n° 5/6, p. 737–756. doi: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2010.12.021
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0277-3791

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