Fossil Pollen and Insect Evidence for Postglacial Environmental Conditions, Nushagak and Holitna Lowland Regions, Southwest Alaska

  • Susan K. Short
  • Scott A. Elias
  • Christopher F. Waythomas
  • Nancy E. Williams
Keywords: Animal taxonomy, Effects of climate on plants, Insects, Palaeobotany, Palaeoecology, Palaeontology, Palynology, Plant distribution, Plant succession, Quaternary period, Sediments (Geology), Alaska, Southwestern


This paper discusses the results of pollen and insect analyses of postglacial samples from the Nushagak and Holitna lowlands, southwest Alaska. Although radiocarbon dating control is poor, the samples can be arranged in a relative-age sequence based on stratigraphic occurrence. The fossil pollen data record the regional transition from a late-glacial dry graminoid tundra through the postglacial Birch, Alder, and Spruce zones. The lack of xeric insect species in the early postglacial suggests that the lowlands of southwest Alaska experienced maritime climatic conditions, in contrast to the interior. Rapid climatic warming is subsequently indicated by the fossil insect data, although the arrival of alder in the region postdates 8500 yr BP. There is no evidence for coniferous forest in the Nushagak lowland at any time in the postglacial, although spruce arrived in the Holitna lowland in the mid-postglacial.

Key words: pollen analysis, fossil insects, paleoenvironments, postglacial, southwest Alaska