• Africa;
  • botanical species;
  • climate-response surface;
  • geographical distribution;
  • pollen;
  • taxonomy


Aim  To demonstrate that incorporating the bioclimatic range of possible contributor plants leads to improved accuracy in interpreting the palaeoclimatic record of taxonomically complex pollen types.

Location  North Tropical Africa.

Methods  The geographical ranges of selected African plants were extracted from the literature and geo-referenced. These plant ranges were compared with the pollen percentages obtained from a network of surface sediments. Climate-response surfaces were graphed for each pollen taxon and each corresponding plant species.

Results  Several patterns can be identified, including taxa for which the pollen and plant distributions coincide, and others where the range limits diverge. Some pollen types display a reduced climate range compared with that of the corresponding plant species, due to low pollen production and/or dispersal. For other taxa, corresponding to high pollen producers such as pioneer taxa, pollen types display a larger climatic envelope than that of the corresponding plants. The number of species contained in a pollen taxon is an important factor, as the botanical species included in a taxon may have different geographical and climate distributions.

Main conclusions  The comparison between pollen and plant distributions is an essential step towards more precise vegetation and climate reconstructions in Africa, as it identifies taxa that have a high correspondence between pollen and plant distribution patterns. Our method is a useful tool to reassess biome reconstructions in Africa and to characterize accurately the vegetation and climate conditions at a regional scale, from pollen data.