Later Quaternary diatom stratigraphy and palaeoenvironments of the Koora Graben and Lake Magadi Basin, Kenya Rift Valley

  • OWEN, R Bernhart (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


This study will use cores to develop a detailed later Pleistocene (several hundred thousand years) diatom-based environmental/climatic history for the Koora Graben and for the Lake Magadi Basin in the southern Kenya Rift. Currently, there are no long and continuous environmental records. The use of cores from two different basins, within 10 km of each other, should help to discriminate between regional climatic signals and tectonically-induced local environmental changes.

The project will also relate these data, in turn, to existing outcrop-based sedimentary records from the Olorgesailie Basin. This latter area has a rich mammalian record and is archaeologically world-famous for its Acheulian and Middle Stone Age tool assemblages, which have shed considerable light on past hominin activities. However, there are problems of continuity at Olorgesailie in terms of the environmental record, which incorporates detailed changes reconstructed from lake and wetland sediments, punctuated by breaks associated with the development of terrestrial/fluvial conditions. These latter depositional breaks are also the parts of the sequence that tend to be associated with the stone tools.

The challenge is to develop a better understanding of these breaks in the record so that hypotheses on the role of climate change in driving human physical and cultural evolution can be more fully tested. This broad aim also falls within the remit of the Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project (HSPDP), which is carrying out a co- ordinated study of five major hominin sites in East Africa. HSPDP will supply this project with samples from a long core (several hundred meters) from lake Magadi that will cover much of the MSA and upper Acheulian. The Smithsonian Institute (Olorgesailie Geological Field Group) will also be supplying two cores from the Koora Graben that have already been recovered (55 m and 135 m long) for work under this proposal. The PI is closely involved with both organisations.

In order to obtain highly detailed environmental records the target drilling sites have been selected at locations with well-developed lacustrine sedimentary sequences where environmental archives should be best developed. The Koora Graben sediments have never been studied previously. The Magadi deposits have been investigated in outcrop, especially from a chemical sedimentology viewpoint, but apart for one eight-meter-long core there is no continuous record. This research will focus on developing a diatom stratigraphy, supported by data on mineralogy and a chronology based on a variety of dating techniques (14C, 40Ar/39Ar and U/Th).
Effective start/end date1/01/1430/06/17

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water


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