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Nat Commun. 2015 Nov 10;6:8751. doi: 10.1038/ncomms9751.

African humid periods triggered the reactivation of a large river system in Western Sahara.

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IFREMER, Unité de Recherche Géosciences Marines, Z.I. Pointe du diable, BP 70, 29280 Plouzané, France.
Université de Lille, CNRS, Université du Littoral Cote d'Opale, UMR8187, LOG, Laboratoire d'Océanologie et de Géosciences, F-59000 Lille, France.
LAB, UMR CNRS 5804, Université de Bordeaux, 32271 Floirac, France.
Royal Museum for Central Africa, Department of Earth Sciences, 3080 Tervuren, Belgium.
SHOM, 29200 Brest, France.
EPOC, UMR CNRS 5805, Université Bordeaux, 33615 Talence, France.
GEOAZUR, UMR CNRS 7329, Université de Nice-Sofia-Antipolis, 06560 Valbonne, France.
CEFREM, Université Via Domitia, 66860 Perpignan, France.
IMRS, BP 5055 Nouakchott, Mauritania.


The Sahara experienced several humid episodes during the late Quaternary, associated with the development of vast fluvial networks and enhanced freshwater delivery to the surrounding ocean margins. In particular, marine sediment records off Western Sahara indicate deposition of river-borne material at those times, implying sustained fluvial discharges along the West African margin. Today, however, no major river exists in this area; therefore, the origin of these sediments remains unclear. Here, using orbital radar satellite imagery, we present geomorphological data that reveal the existence of a large buried paleodrainage network on the Mauritanian coast. On the basis of evidence from the literature, we propose that reactivation of this major paleoriver during past humid periods contributed to the delivery of sediments to the Tropical Atlantic margin. This finding provides new insights for the interpretation of terrigenous sediment records off Western Africa, with important implications for our understanding of the paleohydrological history of the Sahara.

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