Two 10-metre cores were analysed and a 37,500 year pollen stratigraphy was established for
Lake Malawi. A lowstand from 37,500 to 35,900 sp indicates extremely dry conditions.
From 35,900 to 34,000 sp montane forests were widespread indicating cold, moist climate.
Between 34,000 and 26,400 sp warm and dry conditions prevailed and forest area decreased.
During the Last Glacial Maximum montane forest was widespread in the catchment, although
woodlands apparently persisted at low altitudes: the expansion of the montane forest
indicates that the aridity that affected equatorial Africa during this time period did
not affect the Lake Malawi Catchment. The cold and relatively moist conditions during
the Late Pleistocene probably allowed biotic interchange between the highlands of East
and West Africa via the highlands along the Zaire-Zambezi watershed and among now-isolated
islands of Afromontane vegetation in the Lake Malawi catchment. The Holocene is
characterized by climate and vegetation quite similar to today, with indications of
slightly wetter conditions between 6150 and 3000 sp and slightly drier conditions between
8000 and 6150 sp. The low percentages of montane forest pollen throughout the Holocene
support the hypothesis that the montane grasslands of Malawi are not recently anthropogenic.