Pronounced variations in Fagus grandifolia abundances in the Great Lakes region during the Holocene

Yue Wang, Jacquelyn L. Gill, Jeremiah Marsicek, Anna Dierking, Bryan Shuman, John W. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Mesic tree species such as Fagus grandifolia and Tsuga canadensis experienced multiple abundance declines in eastern North America during the last 8000 years, but the causes remain unclear. This paper presents a new sub-centennial record of Holocene vegetation, fire and sedimentological changes at Spicer Lake, IN, to test hypotheses about the role of fire and hydrological variations on shifts in vegetation composition. Four pollen zones are reported: Abies–Picea forests (15–11.8 ka BP), Pinus-dominated mixed forest (11.8–10.6 ka BP), transitional mixed forest (10.6–6.8 ka BP), and deciduous forest characterized by the expansion and high variability of F. grandifolia (after 6.8 ka BP). Macroscopic charcoal indicates five to seven fires between 6.1 and 4.4 ka BP and no fires between 4.4 and 2 ka BP, despite several large declines in F. grandifolia, and more fires after 1.8 ka BP likely linked to declining F. grandifolia abundances after 1.1 ka BP. Six peaks in mineralogenic sediments are suggestive of hydroclimate variability, but do not consistently correspond to shifts in F. grandifolia abundances. A Bayesian change-point analysis of 15 regional F. grandifolia pollen records identifies peak probabilities of events at 4.8 and 1.1 ka BP, similar in timing to variations in T. canadensis at other sites. Hence, fire can be ruled out as a driver of the mid-Holocene declines of F. grandifolia, but more work is needed to confidently establish the regional timing of F. grandifolia declines and to link them to past droughts and T. canadensis declines in eastern North America.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)578-591
Number of pages14
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, © The Author(s) 2015.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • droughts
  • Fagus grandifolia
  • fire
  • Great Lakes region
  • LOI
  • pollen


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