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Late Wisconsin Vegetational and Climatic History at Kylen Lake, Northeastern Minnesota1

  • H. J. B. Birks (a1)

Kylen Lake, located within the Toimi drumlin field, is critically positioned in relation to Late Wisconsin glacial advances, for it lies between the areas covered by the Superior and St. Louis glacial lobes between 12,000 and 16,000 yr B.P. The pollen and plant-macrofossil record suggests the presence of open species-rich “tundra barrens” from 13,600 to 15,850 yr B.P. Small changes in percentages of Artemisia pollen between 14,300 and 13,600 yr B.P. appear to be artifacts of pollen-percentage data. Shrub-tundra with dwarf birch, willow, and Rhododendron lapponicum developed between 13,600 and 12,000 yr B.P. Black and white spruce and tamarack then expanded to form a vegetation not dissimilar to that of the modern forest-tundra ecotone of northern Canada. At 10,700 B.P. spruce and jack pine increased to form a mosaic dominated by jack pine and white spruce on dry sites and black spruce, tamarack, and deciduous trees such as elm and ash on moist fertile sites. At 9250 yr B.P. red pine and paper birch became dominant to form a vegetation that may have resembled the dry northern forests of Wisconsin today. The diagram terminates at 8410 ± 85 yr B.P. Climatic interpretation of this vegetational succession suggests a progressive increase in temperature since 14,300 yr B.P. This unidirectional trend in climate contrasts with the glacial history of the area. Hypotheses are presented to explain this lack of correspondence between pollen stratigraphy and glacial history. The preferred hypothesis is that the ice-margin fluctuations were controlled primarily by changes in winter snow accumulation in the source area of the glacier, whereas the vegetation and hence the pollen stratigraphy were controlled by climatic changes in front of the ice margin.

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Contribution No. 224, Limnological Research Center, University of Minnesota.

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