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Soil and Plant Phytoliths from the Acacia-Commiphora Mosaics at Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania)

Description: This dataset pertains to the study of soil and plant phytoliths from the Eastern Serengeti Plains, specifically the Acacia-Commiphora mosaics from Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. The soil phytolith transect extends 100 ha and comprises 35 samples. Botanic collection was aimed at investigating the range of species present in the study area, learning about their phytolith production and morphotype characteristics, and comparing the botanical dataset with the soil group. We studied 29 species (20 genera, 15 families). Quantification aimed at discovering relationships amongst the soil and plant phytoliths relative distributions through Chi–square independence tests, establishing the statistical significance of the relationship between categorical variables within the two populations. For the soils we tallied 10,745 phytoliths (64 morphotypes grouped into 15 classes). Plants yielded 4,310 phytoliths (morphotypes = 52, classes = 13). In topsoils, the woody phytolith group dominates all terrain ranks, and appears to increase with denser plant cover, while grass phytoliths peak in sparsely vegetated terrain. The morphotypes from woody plants are led by the spherical class. The Poaceae produce ovates, towers, and horned towers. We provide a phytolith analog for the Acacia-Commiphora ecozone, explore whether soil phytoliths mirror the physiognomy and composition of vegetation aboveground, issues of catchment size, as well as time averaging, heterogeneity, and adequate sampling methods. From a phytolith perspective, this analog comprises seven phytolith classes: Four from woody tissue and three from grasses. In addition, we created a phytolith reference collection of characteristic plants from this ecosystem that can aid in the taxonomic identification of phytoliths from ancient sediments and soils.
Authors: Mercader, Julio; University of Calgary; ORCID iD 0000-0002-5637-7937
Clarke, Siobhan; University of Calgary; ORCID iD 0000-0003-3489-6338
Bundala, Mariam; University of Calgary; University of Dar es Salaam
Favreau, Julien; University of Calgary
Inwood, Jamie; University of Calgary; ORCID iD 0000-0003-3980-5730
Itambu, Makarius; University of Calgary; University of Dar es Salaam
Larter, Fergus; University of Calgary
Lee, Patrick; University of Calgary; University of Toronto
Lewiski-McQuaid, Garnet; University of Calgary
Mollel, Neduvoto; National Herbarium of Tanzania; Tropical Pesticides Research Institute
Mwambwiga, Aloyce; University of Calgary; Arusha National Natural History Museum
Patalano, Robert; University of Calgary
Soto, María; University of Calgary; ORCID iD 0000-0003-4154-5384
Tucker, Laura; University of Calgary
Walde, Dale; University of Calgary; ASM Research Group
Keywords: African palaeoenvironments
Soil and Plant phytoliths
Acacia-Commiphora woodland and grassland mosaics
Reference collections
East Africa
Analog for early human evolution
Field of Research: 
Other social sciences
Social and cultural anthropology
Publication Date: 2018-11-20
Publisher: Federated Research Data Repository / dépôt fédéré de données de recherche
Funder: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC); 895-2016-1017
Related Identifiers: 
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This dataset is supplemented by
Geographic Coverage: 
Place Name
Olduvai Gorge

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Access to this dataset is subject to the following terms:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
Mercader, J., Clarke, S., Bundala, M., Favreau, J., Inwood, J., Itambu, M., Larter, F., Lee, P., Lewiski-McQuaid, G., Mollel, N., Mwambwiga, A., Patalano, R., Soto, M., Tucker, L., Walde, D. (2018). Soil and Plant Phytoliths from the Acacia-Commiphora Mosaics at Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania). Federated Research Data Repository.