[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Improved predictions of drought require an understanding of natural and human-induced climate variability. Long-term records across glacial–interglacial cycles provide the natural component of variability, however few such records exist for the southwestern United States (US) and quantitative or semi-quantitative records of precipitation are absent. Here we use the hydrogen isotope (δD) value of C28n-alkanoic acid in lacustrine sediments of Pleistocene age to reconstruct δD values of precipitation in northern New Mexico over two glacial–interglacial cycles (∼550,000–360,000 years before present) and obtain a record of monsoon strength. Overall, reconstructed δD values range from −53.8‰ to −94.4‰, with a mean value of −77.5 ± 8‰. Remarkably, this variation falls within the measured present-day summer monsoonal and winter weighted means (−50.3 ± 3‰ and −106.4 ± 20‰ respectively), suggesting that processes similar to those of present time also controlled precipitation during Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 13 to 10. Using the δD summer monsoonal and winter mean values as end-members, we interpret our reconstructed δD record of precipitation as a direct, and semi-quantitative, indicator of monsoon strength during MIS 13 to 10. Interglacial periods were characterized by greater monsoon strength but also greater variability compared to glacial periods. Pronounced cycles in the strength of the monsoon occurred during interglacial periods and in general were positively correlated with maximum mean annual temperatures. Our estimates of monsoon strength are supported by independent proxies of ecosystem productivity, namely, TOC, δ13C of TOC and Si/Ti ratio and warm pollen taxa Juniperus and Quercus. Interglacial variability in the strength of the monsoon resembles a response to the land-sea surface temperature contrast (LSTC) except for the early part of MIS 11. During this period, LSTC would have remained relatively strong while monsoonal strength decreased to a minimum. This minimum occurred following the warmest interval of MIS 11, suggesting a more complex driving of monsoon strength during warm periods. In addition, this period of monsoon minimum coincided with a core section of mud-cracked sediments that suggest low monsoonal precipitation was an important factor in the onset of drought. Our estimates of monsoon strength represent a record of natural variability in the region that is relevant to present time, in particular the variability during interglacial MIS 11, which is considered an analog for the current interglacial. Our results suggest that natural variability can cause significant reductions in monsoonal precipitation with the implication of a potentially adverse effect from sustained warming.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Paleoecological studies from Rocky Mountain high elevations encompassing the previous interglacial (MIS 5e) are rare. The ~ 10-m composite profile from the Ziegler Reservoir site (2705 m asl) of central Colorado allows us to determine paleoenvironments from MIS 6–MIS 4 using pollen assemblages that are approximately equivalent to marine oxygen isotope stages. During Pollen Zone (PZ) 6 time, pollen assemblages dominated by Artemisia (sagebrush) suggest that alpine tundra or steppe occurred nearby. The transition to PZ 5e was characterized by a rapid increase in tree pollen, initially Picea (spruce) and Pinus (pine) but also Quercus (oak) and Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas-fir). Non-arboreal pollen (NAP) types increased during PZ 5d, while Abies (fir) and Juniperus (juniper) increased during PZ 5c. Pollen evidence suggests that temperatures during PZ 5b were as cold as during PZ 6, with the site again surrounded by alpine tundra. Picea dominated during PZ 5a before the onset of cooler conditions during PZ 4. The MIS 6–MIS 5e transition here was similar to the MIS 2–MIS 1 transition at other Rocky Mountain sites. However, the Ziegler Reservoir pollen record contains evidence suggesting unexpected climatic trends at this site, including a warmer-than-expected MIS 5d and cooler-than-expected MIS 5b.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In North America, terrestrial records of biodiversity and climate change that span Marine Oxygen Isotope Stage (MIS) 5 are rare. Where found, they provide insight into how the coupling of the ocean-atmosphere system is manifested in biotic and environmental records and how the biosphere responds to climate change. In 2010-2011, construction at Ziegler Reservoir near Snowmass Village, Colorado (USA) revealed a nearly continuous, lacustrine/wetland sedimentary sequence that preserved evidence of past plant communities between ~ 140 and 55 ka, including all of MIS 5. At an elevation of 2705 m, the Ziegler Reservoir fossil site also contained thousands of well-preserved bones of late Pleistocene megafauna, including mastodons, mammoths, ground sloths, horses, camel, deer, bison, black bear, coyotes, and bighorn sheep. In addition, the site contained more than 26,000 bones from at least 30 species of small animals including salamanders, otters, muskrats, minks, rabbits, beavers, frogs, lizards, snakes, fish, and birds. The combination of macro- and micro-vertebrates, invertebrates, terrestrial and aquatic plant microfossils, a detailed pollen record, and a robust, directly dated stratigraphic framework shows that high-elevation ecosystems in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado are climatically sensitive and varied dramatically throughout MIS 5.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The recent continental-scale outbreak of native bark beetles in western North America is unprecedented at least since Euro-American settlement. Observational and modeling evidence suggest that warm temperatures observed during the late 20th century altered beetle population dynamics by accelerating beetle reproductive cycles leading to exponential population growth. The linkage between beetle outbreaks and climate warming has motivated efforts to reconstruct these disturbances using long-term environmental records using lake sediments. Here, we present data from across western North America in an effort to understand how beetle remains retrieved from lake sediments may be used as a proxy for reconstructing severe outbreaks and ecosystem response over centennial to millennial timescales. We (1) review existing literature related to beetle taphonomy; (2) present previously unpublished data of beetle remains in lake sediments; (3) comment on the development of a methodology to retrieve terrestrial beetle remains from lake sediments; (4) discuss potential controls on beetle carcass taphonomy into the sediment matrix; and lastly (5) speculate on the use of primary and secondary attack beetle remains as indicators of past outbreak episodes. Our synthesis suggests that the remains of primary attack beetles are rarely preserved in lake sediments, at least using small-diameter piston devices common in multi-proxy studies. Alternatively, remains of secondary attach beetles may be common but further work is required to understand how these insects can be used to aid in interpreting past forest disturbances, including bark beetle outbreaks and wildfire. A number of factors may influence whether or not bark beetle remains become entrained in the area of sediment focusing including lake water chemistry, fish predation and scavenging, and weather conditions during peak beetle emergence.
Quaternary International 01/2014; · 2.13 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Marked changes in sediment types deposited in Cabin Lake, near Cordova, Alaska, represent environmental shifts during the early and late Holocene, including fluctuations in the terminal position of Sheridan Glacier. Cabin Lake is situated to receive meltwater during periods when the outwash plain of the advancing Sheridan Glacier had aggraded. A brief early Holocene advance from 11.2 to 11.0 cal ka is represented by glacial rock flour near the base of the sediment core. Non-glacial lake conditions were restored for about 1000 years before the water level in Cabin Lake lowered and the core site became a fen. The fen indicates drier-than-present conditions leading up to the Holocene thermal maximum. An unconformity spanning 5400 years during the mid-Holocene is overlain by peat until 1110 CE when meltwater from Sheridan Glacier returned to the basin. Three intervals of an advanced Sheridan Glacier are recorded in the Cabin Lake sediments during the late Holocene: 1110–1180, 1260–1540 and 1610–1780 CE. The sedimentary sequence also contains the first five reported tephra deposits from the Copper River delta region, and their geochemical signatures suggest that the sources are the Cook Inlet volcanoes Redoubt, Augustine and Crater Peak, and possibly Mt Churchill in the Wrangell Volcanic field.
Journal of Quaternary Science 11/2013; 28(8):761–771. · 2.66 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Pollen, non-pollen palynomorphs (NPPs), and charcoal particle stratigraphies are used to determine environmental change at Glenmire, Point Reyes
Peninsula, northcentral coastal California, over the last c. 6200 years. Pollen was not preserved in early Holocene sediments when climate was drier than
present. However, groundwater tables rose after c. 6200 cal. BP, allowing for greater subsequent preservation of organic matter. Middle and late Holocene
environments were a mosaic of vegetation types, including mixed conifer forest with coastal scrub grassland prior to c. 4000 cal. BP. Subsequently,
hardwoods such as alder (Alnus) and coastal scrub (e.g. Artemisia, Baccharis) expanded until c. 2200 cal. BP, followed by tanoak (Lithocarpus densiflorus),
Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), and coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). With increasing amounts of oak (Quercus), this mosaic of vegetation types
continued to dominate until the arrival of Euro-Americans in the early to mid-1800s. The fire history is probably tied closely to human settlement,
since natural ignitions are rare. Elevated charcoal amounts coincide with increased sedentism of the native populations by about 3500 cal. BP. Increased
sedentism may have caused a more intense and constant use of the coastal environment around Glenmire. For the most recent centuries, we compared
historical records of explorations, Spanish Mission establishment, consolidation of the native Coast Miwok population, ranching by Mexican nationals,
and dairying by Americans at the height of California’s gold rush with the paleoecological record. The Glenmire record thus documents changing fire
use following the AD 1793 fire suppression proclamation; declines in native forest species; introductions of non-native species, including those associated
with livestock grazing and land disturbance; and an increase in coprophilous fungi (NPPs) associated with the presence of large numbers of sheep and
cattle, among other changes. During the historical period, the sedimentary record of historical fires closely matches the nearby fire-scar tree-ring record.
The Holocene 10/2013; 23(12):1797– 1810. · 3.22 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A combination of pollen and sedimentary charcoal stratigraphies are used in conjunction with historical records to determine the relationships between climate, vegetation change and changing disturbances over the last 800 years in the Sierra Nevada, California. This period witnessed significant climate variability (the ‘Medieval Climate Anomaly’ followed by the ‘Little Ice Age’), as well as expansion of Native American, then Euro-American, populations. From c. ad 1300 to about ad 1800, the meadow was surrounded by a Pinus ponderosa–mixed conifer forest. The abundance of charcoal and carbonaceous spheres in the sediments suggests fire repeatedly burned across the meadow between c. ad 1300 and c. ad 1550, suggesting frequent surface fires. A similar pattern was noted previously in nearby Yosemite Valley, associated with a proto-historic Miwok population expansion (Anderson and Carpenter, 1991). Subsequently, cooler conditions with greater meadow soil moisture prevailed during the LIA, but with little decline in burning. We interpret this as evidence for continued Native American burning. Beginning in the mid-19th century ce, pine pollen percentages declined substantially, then rebounded somewhat during the 20th century. Grass pollen increases, and introduced herbs (Erodium, Plantago, Rumex, Zea) increase, documenting Euro-American settlement of the local Wawona area, with harvesting of economically important trees, livestock grazing and small-scale farming. These changes are consistent with the historical record. The sedimentary record largely confirms the fire scar record, documenting the anomalous nature of the absence of fire in the vicinity, which is critical to our understanding of the importance of this process on pre-European landscapes.
The Holocene 06/2013; 23(6):823-832. · 3.22 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Present day lead pollution is an environmental hazard of global proportions. A correct determination of natural lead levels is very important in order to evaluate anthropogenic lead contributions. In this paper, the anthropogenic signature of early metallurgy in Southern Iberia during the Holocene, more specifically during the Late Prehistory, was assessed by mean of a multiproxy approach: comparison of atmospheric lead pollution, fire regimes, deforestation, mass sediment transport, and archeological data. Although the onset of metallurgy in Southern Iberia is a matter of controversy, here we show the oldest lead pollution record from Western Europe in a continuous paleoenvironmental sequence, which suggests clear lead pollution caused by metallurgical activities since ~3900cal BP (Early Bronze Age). This lead pollution was especially important during Late Bronze and Early Iron ages. At the same time, since ~4000cal BP, an increase in fire activity is observed in this area, which is also coupled with deforestation and increased erosion rates. This study also shows that the lead pollution record locally reached near present-day values many times in the past, suggesting intensive use and manipulation of lead during those periods in this area.
Science of The Total Environment 02/2013; 449C:451-460. · 3.16 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Detailed pollen, charcoal, isotope and magnetic susceptibility data from an alpine lake sediment core from Sierra Nevada, southern Spain record changes in vegetation, fire history and lake sedimentation since ca. 4100 cal yr BP. The proxies studied record an arid period from ca. 3800 to 3100 cal yr BP characterized by more xerophytic vegetation and lower lake levels. A humid period is recorded between ca. 3100 and 1850 cal yr BP, which occurred in two steps: (1) an increase in evergreen Quercus between 3100 and 2500 cal yr BP, indicating milder conditions than previously and (2) an increase in deciduous Quercus and higher lake levels, between ca. 2500 and 1850 cal yr BP, indicating a further increase in humidity and reduction in seasonal contrast. Humid maxima occurred during the Roman Humid Period, previously identified in other studies in the Mediterranean region. Intensified fire activity at this time could be related to an increase in fuel load and/or in human disturbance. An arid period subsequently occurred between 1850 and 650 cal yr BP, though a decrease in Quercus and an increase in xerophytes. The alternation of persistent North Atlantic Oscillation modes probably played an important role in controlling these humid–arid cycles.
Quaternary Research 01/2013; 79:110-122. · 2.58 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: High-resolution pollen, plant macrofossil and magnetic susceptibility (MS) data are presented from an alpine lake sediment core from west-central Colorado, recording changes in vegetation and sedimentation for the latest Pleistocene and Holocene (c. the last 12.5 ka; 1 ka = 1000 cal. yr BP). During the Younger Dryas chron (c. 12.9–11.5 ka), Artemisia steppe or tundra grew around the lake, but by the earliest Holocene (10.7–9.5 ka) a subalpine Picea and Abies parkland was established there. Picea remained important through the early Holocene, but also bristlecone and lodgepole pines (Pinus aristata and P. contorta) grew around the lake. Warming conditions are indicated from 9.5 ka, lasting until c. 4.5–3.5 ka, which may have been the warmest period, with greatest development of monsoonal conditions. Trees subsequently retreated downslope from Kite Lake c. 150–200 m during the last 3.5 ka, establishing their present treeline position. A decrease in total Pinus and increases in Artemisia and piñon (P. edulis) indicate a trend toward progressive climate cooling and enhanced winter precipitation. These long-term climatic trends correlate with Holocene changes in summer insolation.
The Holocene 01/2013; 23(1):68-77. · 3.22 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: n-Alkane biomarker distributions in sediments from Swamp Lake (SL), in the central Sierra Nevada of California (USA), provide evidence for an increase in mean lake level ~3000 yr ago, in conjunction with widespread climatic change inferred from marine and continental records in the eastern North Pacific region. Length distributions of n-alkane chains in modern plants growing at SL were determined and compared to sedimentary distributions in a core spanning the last 13 ka. As a group, submerged and floating aquatic plants contained high proportions of short chain lengths (b nC 25) compared to emergent, riparian and upland terrestrial species, for which chain lengths >nC 27 were dominant. Changes in the sedimentary n-alkane distribution over time were driven by vari-able inputs from plant sources in response to changing lake level, sedimentation and plant community composi-tion. A shift toward shorter chain lengths (nC 21, nC 23) occurred between 3.1 and 2.9 ka and is best explained by an increase in the abundance of aquatic plants and the availability of shallow-water habitat in response to rising lake level. The late Holocene expansion of SL following a dry mid-Holocene is consistent with previous evidence for increased effective moisture and the onset of wetter conditions in the Sierra Nevada between 4.0 and 3.0 ka.
Quaternary Research 11/2012; 79:14-23. · 2.58 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Understanding the causes and consequences of wildfires in forests of the western United States requires integrated information about fire, climate changes, and human activity on multiple temporal scales. We use sedimentary charcoal accumulation rates to construct long-term variations in fire during the past 3,000 y in the American West and compare this record to independent fire-history data from historical records and fire scars. There has been a slight decline in burning over the past 3,000 y, with the lowest levels attained during the 20th century and during the Little Ice Age (LIA, ca. 1400-1700 CE [Common Era]). Prominent peaks in forest fires occurred during the Medieval Climate Anomaly (ca. 950-1250 CE) and during the 1800s. Analysis of climate reconstructions beginning from 500 CE and population data show that temperature and drought predict changes in biomass burning up to the late 1800s CE. Since the late 1800s , human activities and the ecological effects of recent high fire activity caused a large, abrupt decline in burning similar to the LIA fire decline. Consequently, there is now a forest "fire deficit" in the western United States attributable to the combined effects of human activities, ecological, and climate changes. Large fires in the late 20th and 21st century fires have begun to address the fire deficit, but it is continuing to grow.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 02/2012; 109(9):E535-43. · 9.81 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: a b s t r a c t Understanding the natural mechanisms that control fire occurrence in terrigenous ecosystems requires long and continuous records of past fires. Proxies, such as sedimentary charcoal and tree-ring fire scars, have temporal or spatial limitations and do not directly detect fire intensity. We show in this study that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) produced during wildfires record local fire events and fire intensity. We demonstrate that high performance liquid chromatography with fluorescence detector (HPLC-FLD) is superior to gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS) for detecting the low con-centrations of sedimentary PAHs derived from natural fires. The HPLC-FLD is at least twice as sensitive as the GC–MS in selective ion monitoring (SIM) mode for parent PAHs and five times as sensitive for retene. The annual samples extracted from varved sediments from Swamp Lake in Yosemite National Park, California are compared with the observational fire history record and show that PAH fluxes record fires within 0.5 km of the lake. The low molecular weight (LMW) PAHs (e.g., fluoranthene, pyrene and benz[a]anthracene) are the best recorders of fire, whereas the high molecular weight (HMW) PAHs likely record fire intensity. PAHs appear to resolve some of the issues inherent to other fire proxies, such as sec-ondary deposition of charcoal. This study advances our understanding of how PAHs can be used as mark-ers for fire events and poses new questions regarding the distribution of these compounds in the environment.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: a b s t r a c t Sediment records from Swamp Lake (SL) in the central Sierra Nevada, California, provide evidence of climatic change on millennial and centennial timescales over the last w20,000 years. Total organic carbon (TOC) abundance varied in concert with elemental and isotopic tracers of organic matter (C/N, d 13 C org , d 15 N), biogenic silica content, total magnetic susceptibility, and sediment lithology. We interpret the down-core proxy records as representing the response of the lake environment, in terms of temperature, seasonal ice cover, mixing regimes, runoff and in situ OM and nutrient cycling, to shifting climate states. These envi-ronmental factors in turn drove changes in algal productivity, OM sources, microbial OM regeneration and secondary production, and detrital input. The late Pleistocene (w19.7e10.8 cal. kyr BP) was dominated by uctuations between relatively warm/dry intervals with high TOC (17.4e16.5, 15.8e15.0, 13.9e13.2, 11.4e11.0 cal. kyr BP) and cold/wet intervals (16.5e15.8, 14.8e13.9, 13.1e11.6, 11.0e10.7 cal. kyr BP) char-acterized by low TOC and high detrital input. The Holocene (w10.7 cal. kyr BP e present) was characterized by three abrupt increases in TOC (after w10.8, 8.0, and 3.0 cal. kyr BP) and numerous century-scale uc-tuations. TOC increases reected enhanced lake productivity and OM recycling, and reduced detrital input, in response to changing winter temperature and hydrologic regimes. Inferred environmental changes at SL correlate with other Sierra Nevada paleorecords, and with reconstructed sea surface temperatures along the California margin. Parallel changes in the SL and SST records over the past w20,000 years provide new evidence that continental climate in the Sierra Nevada and the California Current system have responded, on multiple timescales, to common drivers in North Pacic ocean-atmospheric circulation.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: High-resolution pollen and magnetic susceptibility (MS) analyses have been carried out on a sediment core taken from a high-elevation alpine bog area located in Sierra Nevada, southern Spain. The earliest part of the record, from 8200 to about 7000 cal yr BP, is characterized by the highest abundance of arboreal pollen and Pediastrum, indicating the warmest and wettest conditions in the area at that time. The pollen record shows a progressive aridification since 7000 cal yr BP that occurred in two steps, first shown by a decrease in Pinus, replaced by Poaceae from 7000 to 4600 cal yr BP and then by Cyperaceae, Artemisia and Amaranthaceae from 4600 to 1200 cal yr BP. Pediastrum also decreased progressively and totally disappeared at ca. 3000 yr ago. The progressive aridification is punctuated by periodically enhanced drought at ca. 6500, 5200 and 4000 cal yr BP that coincide in timing and duration with well-known dry events in the Mediterranean and other areas. Since 1200 cal yr BP, several changes are observed in the vegetation that probably indicate the high-impact of humans in the Sierra Nevada, with pasturing leading to nutrient enrichment and eutrophica-tion of the bog, Pinus reforestation and Olea cultivation at lower elevations.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Investigation of terrestrially derived organic remains within the late-glacial-marine Presumpscot Formation near Portland, Maine, adds one new shrub species, six moss species, and representatives of six families of insects to the fossil biota of the deposit. White spruce (Picea glauca) dominates the plant macrofossil assemblage; the dominant pollen type is also spruce. The total biotic assemblage probably represents remnants of a forest-floor litter layer, eroded along a stream and subsequently deposited offshore. Three accelerator mass spectrometer (AMS) dates on spruce needles and cones suggest rapid burial, with marine regression from the area by ca. 11 500 BP.
Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 02/2011; 27(9):1241-1246. · 1.37 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The potential for increased drought frequency and severity linked to anthropogenic climate change in the semi-arid regions of the southwestern United States (US) is a serious concern. Multi-year droughts during the instrumental period and decadal-length droughts of the past two millennia were shorter and climatically different from the future permanent, 'dust-bowl-like' megadrought conditions, lasting decades to a century, that are predicted as a consequence of warming. So far, it has been unclear whether or not such megadroughts occurred in the southwestern US, and, if so, with what regularity and intensity. Here we show that periods of aridity lasting centuries to millennia occurred in the southwestern US during mid-Pleistocene interglacials. Using molecular palaeotemperature proxies to reconstruct the mean annual temperature (MAT) in mid-Pleistocene lacustrine sediment from the Valles Caldera, New Mexico, we found that the driest conditions occurred during the warmest phases of interglacials, when the MAT was comparable to or higher than the modern MAT. A collapse of drought-tolerant C(4) plant communities during these warm, dry intervals indicates a significant reduction in summer precipitation, possibly in response to a poleward migration of the subtropical dry zone. Three MAT cycles ∼2 °C in amplitude occurred within Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 11 and seem to correspond to the muted precessional cycles within this interglacial. In comparison with MIS 11, MIS 13 experienced higher precessional-cycle amplitudes, larger variations in MAT (4-6 °C) and a longer period of extended warmth, suggesting that local insolation variations were important to interglacial climatic variability in the southwestern US. Comparison of the early MIS 11 climate record with the Holocene record shows many similarities and implies that, in the absence of anthropogenic forcing, the region should be entering a cooler and wetter phase.