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Late Quaternary Pollen Record from Cheyenne Bottoms, Kansas

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Glen G. Fredlund*
Department of Geography, University, of Wisconsin Milwaukee, P.O. Box 413, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53201


A sediment and pollen record from Cheyenne Bottoms, a large (166 km2) enclosed basin in central Kansas, provides evidence for local and regional vegetation and climate change during the late Quaternary (ca. 30,000 yr.). Although radiocarbon dating of the carbonate-rich lacustrine sediments remains problematic, a basic chronological framework for the section is established. Two major litho- and biostratigraphic units, a Farmdalian zone (ca. 30,000 to 24,000 yr B.P.) and a Holocene zone (ca. 11,000 yr B.P. to present), are separated by a major unconformity spanning the Woodfordian (ca. 24,000 to 11,000 yr B.P.). Pollen and sedimentary data indicate a period of basin-wide drying preceding this unconformity. The sustained absence of sediment accumulation within this playa-like basin suggests that early Woodfordian conditions were increasingly arid with strengthened surface winds. Before this, persistent shallow water marshland dominated the local basin-bottom vegetation. Regional upland vegetation was an open grassland-sage steppe throughout the Farmdalian with limited populations of spruce, juniper, aspen, birch, and boxelder in riparian settings and escarpments. Throughout the Holocene, water levels within the basin fluctuated. Changes in wetland vegetation resulting from water level fluctuation have increased during the last 3,000 yr indicating that periodic episodes of wetland loss and rebound are not unique to postsettlement conditions but are an ongoing phenomenon at Cheyenne Bottoms.

Research Article
University of Washington

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