Pollen analysis of lake sediments reveals that small areas of till and outwash in northcentral Upper Michigan have influenced plant distributions throughout postglacial time. Each substrate has different textural characteristics. Modern forest communities form a mosaic, with jack pine woodlands occupying the medium sands of the Yellow Dog Plains outwash and white pine-hardwood communities on both till and outwash soils in the Michigamme Highlands to the south.
The analysis of modern pollen samples from 21 lakes within the area indicates that pollen can be used to study the distribution of local vegetation in relation to substrate type. Fossil pollen from three of the lakes documents the character of ancient forest on Yellow Dog outwash, Michigamme outwash, and Michigamme till.
Unique boreal communities occupied each area immediately after deglaciation. Between 8000 and 7000 y.a., white pine and maples migrated into the study area and replaced jack pine in forests on the Highlands, but not on the Plains. Jack pine has continued to occupy the Plains since early postglacial time. White pine reached highest densities on Michigamme outwash, and deciduous trees increased primarily on till during the presumably dry climates which existed 8000-5000 yr BP. As the climate became more mesic, forests on the Highlands changed, so that by 3000 yr BP the communities on Michigamme outwash and till were indistinguishable on the basis of pollen. Present-day forest patterns of the area became established at that time.
Pollen influx rates, measured at each lake, generally support interpretations based on pollen percentages and were similar to values reported elsewhere. Variations in influx values are within the range expected for the method.