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Postglacial Vegetation and Climate in the Northwestern Great Plains of Montana

  • Cathy W. Barnosky (a1)

Two pollen records from the northern Great Plains of Montana portray vegetational and climatic changes during the last 12,200 yr in a region where few other data are available. A 6.4-m core from Guardipee Lake, east of the Rocky Mountains in the area formerly covered by the Two Medicine glacial lobe, contains the Glacier Peak G and Mt. St. Helens Jy volcanic ashes. Pollen percentage data are dominated by Pinus, Poaceae, Artemisia, and Chenopodiaceae/Amaranthaceae. High nonarboreal percentages and small amounts of Juniperus, Alnus, Salix, and Populus pollen in sediments deposited between ca. 12,200 and ca. 9300 yr B.P. suggest a temperate grassland with shrubs growing locally in mesic settings. After ca. 9300 yr B.P. an increase in Chenopodiaceae/Amaranthaceae pollen and a concomitant decline in Artemisia indicate the development of more xerophytic grassland and the beginning of the altithermal period. The lake probably was intermittently dry thoughout the Holocene. A high sedimentation rate and the presence of cereal taxa characterize the last ca. 100 yr of Euroamerican settlement. Lost Lake at the northern margin of the Highwood Mountains yielded a 16.94-m core with no volcanic ashes that spans the last 9400 yr. High amounts of Chenopodiaceae/Amaranthaceae, Artemisia, and Poaceae pollen, from ca. 9400 to ca. 6000 yr B.P., suggest the presence of xeric grassland and a climate drier than at present. After ca. 6000 yr B.P. Chenopodiaceae/Amaranthaceae values declined and Artemisia, Poaceae, Pinus, Picea, Salix, Alnus, and Betula increased. The inferred spread of shrubs in wet habitats at this time and the expansion of forest in nearby mountain ranges indicate the end of the altithermal period and the onset of cooler/moister conditions.

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Quaternary Research
  • ISSN: 0033-5894
  • EISSN: 1096-0287
  • URL: /core/journals/quaternary-research
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