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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Woody Cover in Modern African Ecosystems: Implications for Hominin Landscape Dynamics
by Negash, Enquye Wondimu, Ph.D., The George Washington University, 2019, 265; 22584276
Abstract (Summary)

Knowledge about paleoenvironments is often hampered by the limitations of the fossil record, which only offers a glimpse of ancient ecosystems. To extract as much environmental and ecological information from the fossil record as possible, we often rely on modern analogs as our sole source of information to study biotic and abiotic components of ecosystems. This dissertation adopted a similar approach by studying woody cover in modern African ecosystems to have a better understanding of the landscape dynamics that prevailed in the past. The primary aim is to apply the knowledge garnered from modern environments to the fossil record of Shungura Formation, a hominin fossil-bearing site in the Omo-Turkana Basin in southern Ethiopia, to improve our understanding about the paleoenvironment. This dissertation is also targeted at better defining the common "mosaic habitat" interpretation for most hominin fossil-bearing sites. To this end, carbon isotopic study of soil organic matter and phytolith analysis was conducted on modern surface soils collected from national parks in eastern and southern Africa with diverse vegetation settings. I aimed to calibrate statistical models for predicting woody cover with these proxies. The models calibrated for predicting woody cover were then used to reconstruct the paleoenvironment of the Shungura Formation along with information from other proxies such as the diet of the collective herbivore fauna. Overall, this study has shown that, depending on the type of proxy used, quantitative studies in modern environments can be used to make more reliable interpretations from the fossil record. However, it also highlights and discusses some of the limitations and biases of using modern analogs.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Bobe, René L.
Commitee: Wood, Bernard A., Wynn, Jonathan G., Behrensmeyer, Anna K., Alemseged, Zeresenay
School: The George Washington University
Department: Human Paleobiology
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-B 81/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Paleoecology
Keywords: Carbon isotopes, Paleosols, Phytoliths, Shungura formation, Soil organic matter, Woody cover
Publication Number: 22584276
ISBN: 9798645445478
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