Late Pleistocene and Holocene Afromontane vegetation and headwater wetland dynamics within the Eastern Mau Forest, Kenya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The Mau Forest Complex is Kenya's largest fragment of Afromontane forest, providing critical ecosystem services, and has been subject to intense land use changes since colonial times. It forms the upper catchment of rivers that drain into major drainage networks, thus supporting the livelihoods of millions of Kenyans and providing important wildlife areas. We present the results of a sedimentological and palynological analysis of a Late Pleistocene–Holocene sediment record of Afromontane forest change from Nyabuiyabui wetland in the Eastern Mau Forest, a highland region that has received limited geological characterization and palaeoecological study. Sedimentology, pollen, charcoal, X-ray fluorescence and radiocarbon data record environmental and ecosystem change over the last ~16 000 cal a bp. The pollen record suggests Afromontane forests characterized the end of the Late Pleistocene to the Holocene with dominant taxa changing from Apodytes, Celtis, Dracaena, Hagenia and Podocarpus to Cordia, Croton, Ficus, Juniperus and Olea. The Late Holocene is characterized by a more open Afromontane forest with increased grass and herbaceous cover. Continuous Poaceae, Cyperaceae and Juncaceae vegetation currently cover the wetland and the water level has been decreasing over the recent past. Intensive agroforestry since the 1920s has reduced Afromontane forest cover as introduced taxa have increased (Pinus, Cupressus and Eucalyptus).


  • Esther N. Githumbi
  • Colin J. Courtney Mustaphi
  • Rob Marchant
External organisations
  • University of Basel
  • University of York
  • Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science & Technology
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Geology


  • afromontane vegetation, Mau Forest, pollen, tropical wetlands, water towers
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-254
JournalJournal of Quaternary Science
Issue number2
Early online date2021 Jan 11
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Publication categoryResearch