Abstract

Located at the interface between land and sea, marl prairies are sensitive to changes in water balance and useful recorders of climate and sea-level changes. Palustrine carbonate in marl prairies precipitates in temporary, barely flooded grasslands within microbial mats. Despite the special mode of carbonate production, descriptions of the sedimentary facies are exceptional and cursory because marl prairies are so far reported only from the recent of the Everglades (Florida, USA), where they produce an unspectacular calcite mud. We present a Pleistocene Everglades-type marl prairie from coastal Tanzania as the first fossil example. The unique preservation and high productivity (two times higher than in the Everglades) of the periphyton community in this marl prairie is due to increased calcification of coccoid and filamentous cyanobacteria. The excellent preservation allows us to characterize a marl prairie facies in great detail for the first time. Facies analyses of the sediments reveal a transition from tidal to terrestrial settings that started at ca. 44 14C ka in response to eustatic sea-level fall and coastal tectonic uplift. The resultant drop of the groundwater table triggered the development of the marl prairie. The decline of the marl prairie was initiated at ca. 33 14C ka due to the onset of the Last Glacial Aridity Maximum in equatorial East Africa.

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