Paleoecological Projects at the Colorado Plateau Research Station:
Holocene and late Pleistocene Vegetation Change
Paleoecology is the science of reconstructing past environments using fossil materials of plants, animals, or other indicators of past environments. Rather than reconstructing the past of a specific type of plant or animal, the goal of paleoecologists is to combine all the types of data to obtain insights into the structure and function of past ecosystems. Frequently, paleoecological studies focus on environments of the Quaternary Period (the last 2 million years) because older environments are less well represented in the fossil record. There are many instances of older ecosystems being reconstructed, but research at the Colorado Plateau Research Station is typically on the the Holocene (the last 10,000 years), or the last glacial period of the Pleistocene (the Wisconsinan period of the ice age; 50,000 to 10,000 years ago). These studies are useful for understanding the dynamics of ecosystem change and for reconstructing conditions that existed before the impacts of industrialized societies on natural ecosystems.
Paleoecological and Historical Vegetation Studies at the Colorado Plateau Research Station.
- The Holocene and late Pleistocene vegetation history of the Grand Canyon, Arizona. Fossil plant assemplages from packrat middens have been used to reconstruct the last 30,000 years of vegetation history from the Grand Canyon, AZ.
- The vegetation and climate history of southern Yemen. Fossil plant assemblages from hyrax middens are being used to reconstruct past changes in climate and vegetation.
- Nineteenth century grazing impacts at Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. Fossil plant assemblages from packrat middens have been used to reconstruct changes of the last 200 years and compare them with late Holocene changes.
- Global Change Research at the Colorado Plateau Research Station. Two new projects on vegetation change in the arid south west have recently been funded through the U.S.G.S. Global Change Research Program.
- The population and fire history of Torrey pine (coastal California) Fossil pollen from estuaries near the two native populations of Torrey Pine, at La Jolla and Santa Rosa Island, reveal their last 4000 years of history.
- Pleistocene vegetation of Kings Canyon, Sierra Nevada, California. Fossil packrat middens reveal plant assemblages from the last 30,000 years in the western Sierra.
- Historical Land Cover Changes in the Great Lakes Region (MI, WI, and MN). Data from the General Land Office Survey and fossil pollen have been used to examine changes in forests over the last 1000 years in the Great Lakes region. From the USGS Land Use History of North America (LUHNA) site. See also: Colorado Plateau LUHNA site.
- Recent vegetation change at Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota Resampling of permanent vegetation plots from 1978 allow analysis of 15 years of vegetation change in boreal forests.
- Holocene paleoenvironments of Isle Royale National Park, Michigan. Fossil pollen data from lakes reveals the 9,000 years of forest history since Isle Royale was deglaciated.
- Fire history and fire effects on oak savannas on the Indiana Dunes, Indiana. Research burns and permanent plots monitor the effects of fire over the last 15 years. Tree-ring data is used to reconstruct the last 100 years of fire history, and fossil pollen and charcoal records extend the record back 4000 years.
Other Arizona Quaternary Paleoecologists and Programs
- Quaternary Studies at Northern Arizona University
- USGS-NAU Macrobotanical Lab
- Scott Anderson (Northern Arizona University)
- Jim I. Mead (Northern Arizona University)
- Palynology at the University of Arizona (Maintained by Owen K. Davis)
- The Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research (University of Arizona)
- American Quaternary Association (AMQUA)
- Arizona Climate Summaries (Western Regional Climate Center)
This page maintained by Larry Coats.