Sunday, 21 June 2009

Expanding African phytolith potential

An article in the latest Annals of Botany, by John Mercader et al., presents results from a study of phytoliths from modern vegetation in the forests near Lake Nisiala in Mozambique. This is an important baseline and background study, which should contribute to the potential application of phytolith analysis in archaeology and palaeoenvironmental studies in East Africa. Perhaps most importantly they have considered issues of expected relative preservation rates for different morpotypes and the patterning of phytolith assemablges representing different families, even in the absence of true species diagnostics, which should allow for inferring the vegetation type of the Miombo woodlands. Combined with a few other, widely dispersed phytoltih moprhotype studies in parts of Africa, listed below, this represents another important step on the path of developing systematic archaeobotany in sub-Saharan Africa. Other previous background studies, include:
  • Bremond L, Alexandre A, Peyron O, Guiot J. 2005. Grass water stress estimated from phytoliths in West Africa. Journal of Biogeography 32: 311–327.
  • Bremond L, Alexandre A, Wooller MJ, et al. 2008. Phytolith indices as proxies of grass subfamilies on East African tropical mountains. Global and Planetary Change 61: 209–224.
  • Runge F. 1999. The opal phytolith inventory of soils in Central Africaquantities, shapes, classification, and spectra. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 107: 23–53.
  • Runge F, Runge J. 1997. Opal phytoliths in East African plants and soils. In: Pinilla A, Juan-Tresseras J, Machado MJ eds. The state-of-the-art of phytoliths in soils Madrid: Centro de Ciencias Medioambientales. 71–81.

No comments: