Dynamics of a Kalahari long-lived mega-lake system: hydromorphological and limnological changes in the Makgadikgadi Basin (Botswana) during the terminal 50 ka

Frank Riedel, Andrew C.G. Henderson, Karl U. Heußner, Georg Kaufmann, Annette Kossler, Christian Leipe, Elisha Shemang, Linda Taft

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

10 Citations (Scopus)


The Kalahari features a long-lived lacustrine system which may exist since the Early Pleistocene. The emergence of an extant cichlid fish radiation from this (palaeo-) lake during the Middle Pleistocene indicates an ancient lake character. The early history of the system remains speculative, but it is established that lake extensions matching modern Lake Victoria in size have occurred during the Late Pleistocene. It has been assumed that the hydrographical dynamics chiefly depended on the inflow from the Okavango River and thus on ITCZ-controlled precipitation. Our studies, which focused the hydromorphological and palaeolimnological development of the Makgadikgadi Basin during the last 50 ka, suggest that from c. 46–16 ka it did not receive water from the Okavango River but from palaeo-rivers located in the northern and south-western catchment. A northward shift of the winter rainfall zone during the Last Glacial Maximum sustained a high lake level for a period of c. 6 ka. During Heinrich Event 1 (17–16 ka) the lake probably desiccated abruptly and completely. Higher lake levels, controlled by water from the Okavango river system, were reached again during the Holocene before the lake dried up in the middle of the last millennium.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-53
Number of pages29
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2014


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aquatic Science

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