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A 10,300 14C yr Record of Climate and Vegetation Change from Haiti

  • Antonia Higuera-Gundy (a1), Mark Brenner (a2), David A. Hodell (a3), Jason H. Curtis (a3), Barbara W. Leyden (a4) and Michael W. Binford (a5)...

Abstract

Pleistocene and Holocene vegetation dynamics in the American tropics are inferred largely from pollen in continental lake sediments. Maritime influences may have moderated climate and vegetation changes on Caribbean islands. Stable isotope (δ18O) study of a 7.6-m core from Lake Miragoane, Haiti, provided a high-resolution record of changing evaporation/precipitation (E/P) since ∼10,300 14C yr B.P. The Miragoane pollen record documents climate influences and human impacts on vegetation in Hispaniola. The δ18O and pollen data near the base of the core indicate cool, dry conditions before ∼10,000 14C yr B.P. Lake Miragoane filled with water in the early Holocene as E/P declined and the freshwater aquifer rose. Despite increasing early Holocene moisture, shrubby, xeric vegetation persisted. Forest expanded ∼7000 14C yr B.P. in response to greater effective moisture and warming. The middle Holocene (∼7000–3200 14C yr B.P.) was characterized by high lake levels and greatest relative abundance of pollen from moist forest taxa. Climatic drying that began ∼3200 14C yr B.P. may have driven some mesophilic animal species to extinction. The pollen record of the last millennium reflects pre-Columbian (Taino) and European deforestation. Long-term, Holocene vegetation trends in southern Haiti are comparable to trends from continental, lowland circum-Caribbean sites, suggesting a common response to regional climate change.

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