Postglacial vegetation dynamics at high elevation from Fairy Lake in the northern Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, Montana, USA

James V. Benes, Virginia Iglesias, Cathy Whitlock

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1 Scopus citations


The postglacial vegetation and fire history of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is known from low and middle elevations, but little is known about high elevations. Paleoecologic data from Fairy Lake in the Bridger Range, southwestern Montana, provide a new high-elevation record that spans the last 15,000 yr. The records suggest a period of tundra-steppe vegetation prior to ca. 13,700 cal yr BP was followed by open Picea forest at ca. 11,200 cal yr BP. Pinus-Pseudotsuga parkland was present after ca. 9200 cal yr BP, when conditions were warmer/drier than present. It was replaced by mixed-conifer parkland at ca. 5000 cal yr BP. Present-day subalpine forest established at ca. 2800 cal yr BP. Increased avalanche or mass-wasting activity during the early late-glacial period, the Younger Dryas chronozone, and Neoglaciation suggest cool, wet periods. Sites at different elevations in the region show (1) synchronous vegetation responses to late-glacial warming; (2) widespread xerothermic forests and frequent fires in the early-to-middle Holocene; and (3) a trend to forest closure during late-Holocene cooling. Conditions in the Bridger Range were, however, wetter than other areas during the early Holocene. Across the Northern Rockies, postglacial warming progressed from west to east, reflecting range-specific responses to insolation-driven changes in climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-380
Number of pages16
JournalQuaternary Research (United States)
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2019 University of Washington, Published by Cambridge University Press.

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Avalanche history
  • Charcoal
  • Climate history
  • Fire history
  • Holocene
  • Montana, Greater Yellowstone
  • Pollen
  • Vegetation history

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