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Holocene Vegetation and Climate History of the Northern Bighorn Basin, Southern Montana

  • Mark E. Lyford (a1), Julio L. Betancourt (a2) and Stephen T. Jackson (a1)


Records of Holocene vegetation and climate change at low elevations (<2000 m) are rare in the central Rocky Mountain region. We developed a record of Holocene vegetation and climate change from 55 14C-dated woodrat middens at two low-elevation sites (1275 to 1590 m), currently vegetated by Juniperus osteosperma woodlands, in the northern Bighorn Basin. Macrofossil and pollen analyses show that the early Holocene was cooler than today, with warming and drying in the middle Holocene. During the Holocene, boreal (Juniperus communis, J. horizontalis) and montane species (J. scopulorum) were replaced by a Great Basin species (J. osteosperma). J. osteosperma colonized the east side of the Pryor Mountains 4700 14C yr B.P. Downward movement of lower treeline indicates wetter conditions between 4400 and 2700 14C yr B.P. Increased aridity after 2700 14C yr B.P. initiated expansion of J. osteosperma from the east to west side of the Pryor Mountains.


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1To whom correspondence should be addressed. Fax: (307) 766-2851. E-mail:


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