Late Holocene swampy forest of Loango Bay (Congo). Sedimentary environments and organic matter deposition

Abstract : This region, comprised between the Kouilou estuary and Pointe-Noire, is characterised by a very specific morphological setting. On the continental side, the coastal sector is dominated by cliffs of sand over 100 metres high, referred to as the Série des Cirques, whereas, on the ocean side, very active erosion is presently taking place which has resulted in a retreat of the shoreline of more than 100 m over the last hundred years. New 14C datings and different analyses of organic matter and clay minerals (X-Ray data) were performed in order to reconstruct the geological and ecological evolution of the area during the Late Holocene and replace it in the palaeoclimatic scheme deduced from previous regional studies. From 7-6000 yr cal BP, the accumulation of important beach barriers by the oceanic drift allowed the definition of a narrow swamp depression several tens of kilometres long. A dense ombrophile and hydromorphic forest, in spite of being very close to the oceanic coast, remained sheltered from any brackish influence and fed accumulations of peat and organic muds. The emersive trend of 3000-2000 yr BP, i.e. the passage from a vast forest swamp with a water body several metres deep to a wet zone with some emersions, is expressed by a large colluvial accumulation. High primary production is not clearly attested in this wet area. High HI values would indicate rather long-lasting conservation in a swampy environment, the lowest values indicating alternating episodes of emersion and immersion. In such peatlands, OM preservation is favoured by an anoxic environment and rapid burial. The δ 13C values of older peats dated ca. 7000 yr cal BP are -28 to -26‰, typical of a C3 origin. Thus, the ca. -16‰ value indicates the greatest opening of the cover, suggesting a forest-savanna mosaic ca. 2500 yr cal BP. At Kivesso, several proxies suggest a wetter trend towards 500 yr cal BP. An ultimate drier trend is observed during the last two centuries, which has been attested to by a δ 13C ratio indicating a clear decrease of the forest extent, probably linked to local Kivesso edaphic conditions.
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Dieudonné Malounguila-Nganga, Pierre Giresse, Mohammed Boussafir, Timothée Miyouna. Late Holocene swampy forest of Loango Bay (Congo). Sedimentary environments and organic matter deposition. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, Elsevier, 2017, 134, pp.419-434. ⟨10.1016/j.jafrearsci.2017.05.022⟩. ⟨insu-01540211⟩

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