As a new palaeoenvironmental archive, rock hyrax middens offer the first opportunity to obtain reliable high-resolution records of past climate and vegetation change in the region. When coupled with high-precision chronologies, these records provide sub-annual to multi-decadal records of rapid environmental change spanning thousands of years. In comparison with other terrestrial palaeoenvironmental archives from the region, which can generally only be resolved to millennial to multi-millennial timescales, hyrax middens provide an improvement in resolution of three to four orders of magnitude.
This improvement in reliability and resolution makes hyrax middens ideal for acquiring records of long-term climate and vegetation change that: 1) can be directly calibrated and compared to instrumental records to obtain quantitative estimates of palaeoclimatic parameters, and 2) can be found across much of southern Africa, allowing for detailed synoptic palaeoclimatic reconstructions at scales that allow for detailed comparisons with general circulation model (GCM) simulations.
The eventual acquisition of an aggregate African hyrax midden dataset will allow us to evaluate, modify and improve GCM performance, and use GCMs to study the drivers and dynamics of long-term climate change as observed in the hyrax midden data.