Environmental history and tephrostratigraphy at Carp Lake, southwestern Columbia Basin, Washington, USA

Cathy Whitlock, Andrei M. Sarna-Wojcicki, Patrick J. Bartlein, Rudy J. Nickmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Sediment cores from Carp Lake provide a pollen record of the last ca. 125,000 years that helps disclose vegetational and climatic conditions from the present day to the previous interglaciation (120-133 ka). The core also contained 15 tephra layers, which were characterised by electron-microprobe analysis of volcanic glass shards. Identified tephra include Mount St. Helens Ye, 3.69 ka; Mazama ash bed, 7.54 ka; Mount St. Helens layer C, 35-50 ka; an unnamed Mount St. Helens tephra, 75-150 ka; the tephra equivalent of layer E at Pringle Falls, Oregon, <218 ka; and an andesitic tephra layer similar to that at Tulelake, California, 174 ka. Ten calibrated radiocarbon ages and the ages of Mount St. Helens Ye, Mazama ash, and the unnamed Mount St. Helens tephra were used to develop an age-depth model. This model was refined by also incorporating the age of marine oxygen isotope stage (IS) boundary 4/5 (73.9 ka) and the age of IS-5e (125 ka). The justification for this age-model is based on an analysis of the pollen record and lithologic data. The pollen record is divided into 11 assemblage zones that describe alternations between periods of montane conifer forest, pine forest, and steppe. The previous interglacial period (IS-5e) supported temperate xerothermic forests of pine and oak and a northward and westward expansion of steppe and juniper woodland, compared to their present occurrence. The period from 83 to 117 ka contains intervals of pine forest and parkland alternating with pine-spruce forest, suggesting shifts from cold humid to cool temperate conditions. Between 73 and 83 ka, a forest of oak, hemlock, Douglas-fir, and fir was present that has no modem analogue. It suggests warm wet summers and cool wet winters. Cool humid conditions during the mid-Wisconsin interval supported mixed conifer forest with Douglas-fir and spruce. The glacial interval featured cold dry steppe, with an expansion of spruce in the late-glacial. Xerothermic communities prevailed in the early Holocene, when temperate steppe was widespread and the lake dried intermittently. The middle Holocene was characterised by ponderosa pine forest, and the modem vegetation was established in the last 3900 yr, when ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, fir, and oak were part of the local vegetation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-29
Number of pages23
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the National Science Foundation (ATM-93070201 and ATM-9615822) and the Westinghouse Hanford Palaeoclimate Program.

Copyright 2011 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Last interglacial
  • Pacific Northwest
  • Quaternary palaeoclimates
  • Quaternary vegetation history

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