charcoal analysis; taxonomical identification; black carbon; anthracomass; radiocarbon dating; central Africa; Democratic Republic of Congo
[en] Introduction. Past disturbances have modified the structure and the floristic composition of Central African rainforests. These perturbations represent a driving force for forest dynamics and they are presumably at the origin of present-day forest mosaics. Fire is a prominent forest disturbance, leaving behind charcoal as a witness of past forest dynamics. The question arises whether quantification, dating and botanical identification of ancient charcoal fragments found in soil layers (pedoanthracology) allows a detailed reconstruction of forest history, including the possible occurrence of past disturbances. Material & methods. We organized pedoanthracological excavations in 6 regrowth sites and 48 sites of primary forests of Yangambi, Yoko, Masako and Kole in the Kisangani (RDC). We performed a detailed sampling in different vegetation types of a semi -deciduous rainforest (Yoko). Charcoal sampling was conducted in pit intervals of 10 cm. The charcoal was quantified whereby pottery fragments were also registered. A selection of charcoal fragments has been dated through AMS 14C measurement. Floristic identifications were conducted using. former protocols based on wood anatomy, which is largely preserved after charcoalification. Results. Charcoal was found in most pit intervals. The anthracomass in the soil of regrowth forests (secondary forests) is much higher than in the primary forest: 27,59 mg/kg for secondary forests et 2,53 mg/kg for primary forests. The specific soil anthracomass of the primary forest of the Yoko reserve is higher (7,7 mg/kg) than in Yangambi (1,9 mg/kg) , Masako (1,7 mg/kg) and Kole (0,8 mg/kg). No systematic differences have been found between soil charcoal content of the different forest type representing different forest histories. Gilbertiodendron dewevrei (De Wild.) J. Leonard forests showed surprisingly a higher concentration of soil charcoal. Discussion. Forest disturbances in the Kisangani region appear to be more recent than those in the Mayombe forest in Western RDC ( 3000-2000 calBP (Hubau, 2013)) and those of the Cameroon forest (2300-1300 calBP) (Morin-Rivat, J et al., 2014). Stratified charcoal conserved in the soil is a useful indicator of past forest disturbances.