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Holocene Climate of New England

  • Margaret B. Davis, Ray W. Spear (a1) and Linda C. K. Shane (a1)

Stratigraphic studies of pollen and macrofossils from six sites at different elevations in the White Mountains of New Hampshire demonstrate changes in the distributions of four coniferous tree species during the Holocene. Two species presently confined to low elevations extended farther up the mountain slopes during the early Holocene: white pine grew 350 m above its present limit beginning 9000 yr B.P., while hemlock grew 300–400 m above its present limit soon after the species immigrated to the region 7000 yr. B.P. Hemlock disappeared from the highest sites about 5000 yr B.P., but both species persisted at sites 50–350 m above their present limits until the Little Ice Age began a few centuries ago. The history of the two main high-elevation conifers is more difficult to interpret. Spruce and fir first occur near their present upper limits 9000 or 10,000 yr B.P. Fir persisted in abundance at elevations similar to those where it occurs today throughout the Holocene, while spruce became infrequent at all elevations from the beginning of the Holocene until 2000 yr B.P. These facts suggest a more complex series of changes than a mere upward shift of the modern environmental gradient. Nevertheless, we conclude that the minimum climatic change which would explain the upward extensions of hemlock and white pine is a rise in temperature, perhaps as much as 2°C. The interval of maximum warmth started 9000 yr B.P. and lasted at least until 5000 yr B.P., correlative with the Prairie Period in Minnesota.

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Quaternary Research
  • ISSN: 0033-5894
  • EISSN: 1096-0287
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