New Spruce (<i>Picea</i> spp.) Macrofossils from Yukon Territory: Implications for Late Pleistocene Refugia in Eastern Beringia

  • G.D. Zazula
  • A.M. Telka
  • C.R. Harington
  • C.E. Schweger
  • R.W. Mathewes
Keywords: spruce, refugia, Beringia, Yukon Territory, macrofossils, paleoecology

Abstract

New radiocarbon-dated plant macrofossils provide evidence for black spruce (Picea mariana) and white spruce (Picea glauca) within the unglaciated Yukon Territory at the onset of glacial conditions during the Marine Isotope Stage 3/2 transition, between about 26 000 and 24500 14C yr BP. These data indicate that spruce trees were able to reproduce sexually and grow to maturity within a glacial environment characterized by widespread steppe-tundra vegetation, loess aggradation, and icewedge formation. These trees may have been restricted to rare valley-bottom habitats that provided adequate shelter and moisture similar to those at the present latitudinal tree line. Previously published hypotheses suggest that low Picea frequencies in regional Beringian pollen data point to the local persistence of spruce trees through the last glaciation. Although our data provide evidence for local spruce trees at the onset of the last glaciation, the available macrofossil record is inconclusive regarding the survival of spruce through the Last Glacial Maximum in Eastern Beringia. These new plant macrofossil data require palynologists to reexamine the relationship between Picea pollen frequency and local trees and highlight the importance of integrated pollen- and macrofossil-based paleoecological reconstructions.

Published
2009-12-16