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A Late Wisconsin and Holocene Vegetation History from the Central Brooks Range: Implications for Alaskan Palaeoecology

  • Linda B. Brubaker (a1), Harriet L. Garfinkel (a1) and Mary E. Edwards (a1)

Five pollen diagrams reveal late Wisconsin and Holocene vegetation changes in the Walker Lake/Alatna Valley region of the central Brooks Range, approximately 100 km west of the area studied by D. A. Livingstone (1955, Ecology 36, 587–600). New insights into the vegetation history of this region are provided by calculations of pollen influx and by the use of linear discriminant analysis to separate Picea glauca and P. mariana pollen. Three major pollen zones are identified: (1) a basal herb zone, characterized by high percentages of Cyperaceae, Gramineae, Salix, and Artemisia, and low total pollen influx; (2) a shrub Betula zone with increased total pollen influx and very high percentages of Betula pollen, predominantly in the size range of B. nana and B. glandulosa; and (3) and Alnus zone dominated by Alnus pollen. Lakes currently within the boreal forest or near tree line show relatively high percentages of Picea pollen in the Alnus zone. Several striking vegetation changes occurred between ca. 10,000 and 7000 yr B.P. Between ca. 11,000 and 10,000 yr B.P., Populus balsamifera pollen percentages as great as 30% indicate that this species was present at low-elevation sites near Walker Lake. These populations declined abruptly ca. 10,000 yr ago and have never regained prominence. About 8500 yr B.P., Picea glauca pollen reached 10–15%, indicating the arrival of P. glauca in or near the study area. P. glauca populations evidently decreased ca. 8000 yr ago, when Picea pollen percentages and influx fell to low values. About 7000 yr B.P., Alnus pollen percentages and influx rose sharply as alder shrubs became established widely. Picea once more expanded ca. 5000 yr ago, but these populations were dominated by P. mariana rather than P. glauca, which increased slowly at this time and may still be advancing northward. Some vegetation changes have been remarkably synchronous over wide areas of interior Alaska, and probably reflect responses of in situ vegetation to environmental changes, but others may reflect the lagged responses of species migrating into new areas.

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