Analysis of planktic foraminifers and pollen from Deep Sea Drilling Project Site 532 located on the continental margin of southwest Africa provides information on the link between Pliocene paleoceanographic conditions and paleoenvironments of southwest Africa. Increased upwelling at Site 532 correlates with southward migration of onshore vegetation regions. Both terrestrial and marine changes can be explained by changes in the southern hemisphere surface temperature gradient which affected the paleo-position of subtropical high pressure cells and productivity of water masses during the Pliocene. When the subtropical high pressure cells were further south, Southern Ocean waters were warmer, contained less sea ice, Southern Ocean diatom productivity was high, and nutrient depleted water upwelled off southwest Africa. When the subtropical high pressure cells were in a configuration similar to the present, Southern Ocean waters were cooler and contained more sea ice, the aerial extent of Southern Ocean diatom productivity was limited, and nutrient rich waters upwelled off southwest Africa as the Benguela upwelling system migrated closer to the position of Site 532.