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Historic and Holocene Environmental Change in the San Antonio Creek Basin, Mid-coastal California

  • R. Scott Anderson (a1) (a2), Ana Ejarque (a1) (a2), Johnathan Rice (a1) (a2), Susan J. Smith (a2) and Clayton G. Lebow (a3)...

Using a combination of pollen, non-pollen palynomorphs (NPPs) and charcoal particle stratigraphies from sediment cores from two sites, along with historical records, we reconstructed paleoenvironmental change in mid-coastal California. The San Antonio Creek section contains a discontinuous, Holocene-length record, while Mod Pond includes a continuous late Holocene record. Together the records allow for interpretation of most of the present interglacial. The longer record documents coastal sage scrub and chaparral dominated by woodland elements early in the Holocene to about 9000 yr ago, a potential decline in woodland communities with drying conditions during the middle Holocene to about 4800 yr ago, and an expansion of coastal sage scrub with grassland during the late Holocene. Evidence for climatic fluctuations during the last 1000 yr at Mod Pond is equivocal, suggesting that the Medieval Climate Anomaly–Little Ice Age had modest impact on the Mod Pond environment. However, evidence of significant environmental change associated with cultural transitions in the 18th–19th centuries is stark. Introduction of non-native plants, establishment of cattle and sheep grazing, missionization of the native population, changes in burning practices during the Spanish period and enhanced cropping activities during North American settlement worked together to substantially modify the mid-California coastal landscape in about a century's time.

Corresponding author
*Corresponding author at: School of Earth Sciences & Environmental Sustainability, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, USA. E-mail addresses: (R. Scott Anderson), (A. Ejarque), (J. Rice), (S.J. Smith), (C.G. Lebow).
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1 Present address: Seminar of Prehistoric Study and Research, Department of Prehistory, Ancient History and Archaeology, University of Barcelona, Montalegre 6, 08001 Barcelona, Spain.
2 Present address: Department of Earth Science, 1006 Webb Hall, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA.
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