Climate change and human disturbance of Fynbos vegetation during the late Holocene at Princess Vlei, Western Cape, South Africa.
Pollen analysis of a core in Princess Vlei in the Fynbos Biome near Cape Town gives a 4150 year record of vegetation and climate changes followed by disturbance by colonial settlers since c. 300 years ago. Their impact replaced climate as a major factor in changing the vegetation. The chronology is based on eight radiocarbon dates. Pollen types such as Restionaceae, Ericaceae, and Proteaceae reflect changes in fynbos. Pollen indicators at the bottom of the core suggest drier conditions followed by an increase in Morella, Cyperaceae and Carpacoce pollen, which might indicate moist conditions c. 3400-2600 cal. yr BP. Drier conditions prevail c. 2600-1900 cal. yr BP. Apparent light disturbance after c. 2000 cal. yr BP might be attributed to Khoi herders. Deeper water and damp surroundings are indicated c. 1900-1000 cal. yr BP. The top of the core shows an increase of Poaceae while Restionaceae decrease with anthropogenic disturbance, including the introduction of neophytes such as Pinus (c. 300 years ago) and Zea mays. Charcoal percentages point to intense fires after the arrival of the Europeans. Water between 105 and 75 cm indicates the development of a floating mat resulting from changes in the hydrological system possibly connected to disturbances by settlers.