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Postglacial Vegetation and Climate of the Cascade Range, Central Oregon

  • Debra S. Sea (a1) and Cathy Whitlock (a2)


Pollen data from two sites provide information on the postglacial vegetation and climate history of the Cascade Range. Indian Prairie in the western Cascade Range was colonized by subalpine forests of Pinus, Picea, and Tsuga and open meadows prior to ca. 12,400 14C yr B.P. The treeline lay 500 to 1000 m below its modern elevation and conditions were cooler than at present. From ca. 12,400 to ca. 9950 14C yr B.P. Abies became important and the forest resembled that presently found at middle elevations in the western Cascade Range. The pollen record implies a rise in treeline and warmer conditions than before. From ca. 10,000 to 4000-4500 14C yr B.P., conditions that were warmer and effectively drier than today led to the establishment of a closed forest composed of Pseudotsuga, Abies, and, at lower elevations, Quercus and Corylus. During this period, Gold Lake Bog in the High Cascades was surrounded by closed forest of Pinus and Abies. The early-Holocene pollen assemblages at both Indian Prairie and Gold Lake Bog lack modern analogues, and it is likely that greater-than-present summer radiation fostered unique climatic conditions and vegetation associations at middle and high elevations. In the late Holocene, beginning ca. 4000-4500 14C yr B.P., cooler and more humid conditions prevailed and the modern vegetation was established. A comparison of these sites with others in the Pacific Northwest suggests that major patterns of vegetational change at individual sites were a response to large-scale changes in the climate system that affected the entire region.



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