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Last interglacial plant macrofossils and climates from Ziegler Reservoir, Snowmass Village, Colorado, USA

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Laura E. Strickland*
U.S. Geological Survey, Denver Federal Center, Box 25046, MS-980, Denver, CO 80225 USA
Richard G. Baker
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA
Robert S. Thompson
U.S. Geological Survey, Denver Federal Center, Box 25046, MS-980, Denver, CO 80225 USA
Dane M. Miller
Department of Botany, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071, USA
Corresponding author. Fax: + 1 303 236 5349.E-mail (L.E. Strickland).


Ninety plant macrofossil taxa from the Ziegler Reservoir fossil site near Snowmass Village, Colorado, record environmental changes at high elevation (2705 m asl) in the Rocky Mountains during the Last Interglacial Period. Present-day vegetation is aspen forest (Populus tremuloides) intermixed with species of higher (Picea, Abies) and lower (Artemisia, Quercus) elevations. Stratigraphic units 4–13 contain montane forest taxa found near the site today and several species that today generally live at lower elevations within (Abies concolor, Lycopus americanus) and outside Colorado (Najas flexilis). These data suggest near-modern climatic conditions, with slightly warmer summer and winter temperatures. This montane forest period was succeeded by a shorter treeless interval (Unit 14) representing colder and/or drier conditions. In units 15–16, conifer trees reoccur but deciduous and herb taxa are lacking, suggesting a return to warmer conditions, although cooler than during the earlier forest period. Comparison of these inferred paleoclimatic changes with the site's geochronologic framework indicates that the lower interval of sustained warmth correlates with late MIS 6–early 5b (~138–94 ka), the cold interval with MIS 5b (~94–87 ka), and the uppermost cool assemblages with MIS 5a (~87–77 ka).

University of Washington

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