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Late Quaternary environmental and landscape dynamics revealed by a pingo sequence on the northern Seward Peninsula, Alaska

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Wetterich, S. , Grosse, G. , Schirrmeister, L. , Andreev, A. , Bobrov, A. , Kienast, F. , Bigelow, N. and Edwards, M. E. (2012): Late Quaternary environmental and landscape dynamics revealed by a pingo sequence on the northern Seward Peninsula, Alaska , Quaternary Science Reviews, 39 , pp. 26-44 . doi: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2012.01.027
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Abstract:

A terrestrial sediment sequence exposed in an eroding pingo provides insights into the late-Quaternary environmental history of the northern Seward Peninsula, Alaska.We have obtained the first radiocarbondated evidence for a mid-Wisconsin thermokarst lake, demonstrating that complex landscape dynamics involving cyclic permafrost aggradation and thermokarst lake formation occurred over stadiale interstadial as well as glacialeinterglacial time periods. High values of Picea pollen and the presence of Larix pollen in sediments dated to 50e40 ka BP strongly suggest the presence of forest or woodland early in MIS 3; the trees grew within a vegetation matrix dominated by grass and sedge, and there is indirect evidence of grazing animals. Thus the interstadial ecosystem was different in structure and composition from the Holocene or from the preceding Last Interglacial period. An early Holocene warm period is indicated by renewed thermokarst lake formation and a range of fossil taxa. Multiple extralimital plant taxa suggest mean July temperatures above modern values. The local presence of spruce during the early Holocene warm interval is evident from a radiocarbon-dated spruce macrofossil remain and indicates significant range extension far beyond the modern tree line. The first direct evidence of spruce in Northwest Alaska during the early Holocene has implications for the presence of forest refugia in Central Beringia and previously assumed routes and timing of post-glacial forest expansion in Alaska.

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