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

  • Laura E. Strickland (a1), Richard G. Baker (a2), Robert S. Thompson (a1) and Dane M. Miller (a3)


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).


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