Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 62, Issue 3, pp 301–314 | Cite as

An 1800-year record of environmental change from the southern Adirondack Mountains, New York (USA)

  • Konrad K. GrochockiEmail author
  • Chad S. Lane
  • Jay Curt Stager
Original paper


We analyzed a sediment core from Piseco Lake, New York (USA), to infer late Holocene environmental conditions and look for evidence of prehistoric human activity in the region. We analyzed fossil pollen, charcoal, and geochemistry in sediments deposited over the last ~ 1800 years. The pollen record indicates the area was dominated primarily by Betula (birch), Pinus (pine), and Tsuga (hemlock). Picea (spruce) increased after ~ 1560 cal yr BP and eventually became a major component of the forest. A transition in the fire regime around Piseco Lake occurred after ~ 900 cal yr BP, perhaps associated with drier conditions during the Medieval Climate Anomaly, ca. 1000–600 BP. A fire ca. 580 cal yr BP, along with decline of Tsuga after ~ 520 cal yr BP, may reflect generally dry conditions of the Little Ice Age (600–150 BP). Climate change may have swamped any evidence for low-intensity, prehistoric human activity around Piseco Lake. The rise in Poaceae (grass) and Ambrosia (ragweed) pollen ~ 130 cal yr BP indicates European settlement in the area, and is followed by rapid decline of Tsuga and Pinus, most likely a consequence of logging. Since about 145 cal yr BP, increases in macroscopic charcoal concentrations and changes in sediment geochemistry indicate increased erosion and nutrient influx to Piseco Lake, likely related to anthropogenic activities.


Lake sediments Pollen Charcoal Stable isotopes 



This project was funded by the Geological Society of America, National Science Foundation, and the University of North Carolina Wilmington College of Arts and Sciences.


  1. Adirondack Ecological Center, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (2019)
  2. Bernabo JC (1981) Quantitative estimates of temperature changes over the last 2700 years in Michigan based on pollen data. Quat Res 15:143–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blaauw M, Christen JA (2011) Flexible paleoclimate age-depth models using an autoregressive gamma process. Bayesian Anal 6:457–474Google Scholar
  4. Booth RK, Jackson ST, Sousa VA, Sullivan ME, Minckley TA, Clifford MJ (2012) Multi-decadal drought and amplified moisture variability drive rapid forest community change in a humid region. Ecology 93:219–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brodie CR, Casford JSL, Lloyd JM, Leng MJ, Heaton THE, Kendrick CP, Yongqiang Z (2011) Evidence for bias in C/N, δ13C and δ15N values of bulk organic matter, and on environmental interpretation, from a lake sedimentary sequence by pre-analysis acid treatment methods. Quat Sci Rev 30:3076–3087CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bunting MJ, Morgan CR, van Bakel M, Warner BG (1998) Pre-European settlement conditions and human disturbance of a coniferous swamp in southern Ontario. Can J Bot 76:1770–1779Google Scholar
  7. Burney DA (1987) Late quaternary stratigraphic charcoal records from Madagascar. Quat Res 28:274–280CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Burney DA, Burney LP (1994) Holocene charcoal stratigraphy from Laguna Tortuguero, Puerto Rico, and the timing of human arrival on the Island. J Arch Sci 21:273–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Burney LP, Burney DA (2003) Charcoal stratigraphies for Kaua’i and the timing of human arrival. Pac Sci 57:211–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Butzer KW (1992) The Americas before and after 1492: an introduction to current geographical research. Ann Assoc Am Geogr 82:345–368CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Campbell ID, McAndrews JH (1995) Charcoal evidence for Indian-set fires: a comment on Clark and Royall. Holocene 5:369–379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Carcaillet C, Richard PJH (2000) Holocene changes in seasonal precipitation highlighted by fire incidence in eastern Canada. Clim Dyn 16:549–559CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Clark JS (1988) Particle motion and the theory of charcoal analysis: source area, transport, deposition, and sampling. Quat Res 30:67–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Clark JS, Royall PD (1995) Transformation of a northern hardwood forest by aboriginal (Iroquois) fire: charcoal evidence from Crawford Lake, Ontario, Canada. Holocene 5:1–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Clark JS, Royall PD (1996) Local and regional sediment charcoal evidence for fire regimes in presettlement north-eastern North America. J Ecol 85:365–382CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Clark JS, Royall PD, Chumbley C (1996) The role of fire during climate change in an eastern deciduous forest at Devil’s Bathtub, New York. Ecology 77:2148–2166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Clifford MJ, Booth RK (2013) Increased probability of fire during late Holocene droughts in northern New England. Clim Change 119:693–704CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cook BI, Smerdon JE, Seager R, Cook ER (2014) Pan-continental droughts in North American over the last millennium. J Clim 27:383–397CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dean WE (1974) Determinations of carbonate and organic matter in calcareous sediments and sedimentary rocks by loss on ignition: comparison with other methods. J Sed Petrol 44:242–248Google Scholar
  20. Delcourt HR (1987) The impact of prehistoric agriculture and land occupation on natural vegetation Tree 2:39–44Google Scholar
  21. Earth System Research Laboratory Physical Sciences Division (2014) US Clim Div Dataset. NOAA. U.S, Dept of CommerceGoogle Scholar
  22. Ekdahl EJ, Teranes JL, Guilderson TP, Turton CL, McAndrews JH, Wittkop CA (2004) Prehistorical record of cultural eutrophication from Crawford Lake, Canada. Geology 32:745–748. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Faegri K, Iversen J (1964) Textbook of Pollen Analysis, 2nd edn. Hafner Publishing, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  24. Finkelstein SA, Peros MC, Davis AM (2005) Late Holocene paleoenvironmental change in a Great Lakes coastal wetland: integrating pollen and diatom datasets. J Paleolimnol 33:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Foster DR, Motzkin G, Slater B (1998) Land-use history as a long-term broad-scale disturbance: regional forest dynamics in central New England. Ecosystems 1:96–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fuller J (1997) Holocene forest dynamics in southern Ontario, Canada: fine resolution pollen data. Can J Bot 75:1714–1727CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fuller JL, Foster DR, McLachlan JS, Drake N (1998) Impact of human activity on regional forest composition and dynamics in central New England. Ecosystems 1:76–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gajewski K, Winkler MG, Swain AM (1985) Vegetation and fire history form three lakes with varved sediments in northwestern Wisconsin (USA). Rev Paleobot Palynol 44:277–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gajewski K, Swain AM, Peterson GM (1987) Late Holocene pollen stratigraphy in four northeastern United States lakes. Geogr Phys et Quat 41:377–386Google Scholar
  30. Hibbs DE (1982) White pine in the transition hardwood forest. Can J Bot 60:2046–2053CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Higuera P (2009) CharAnalysis 0.9: Diagnostic and analytical tools for sediment-charcoal analysis. User’s Guide. MT St Univ:
  32. Higuera PE, Brubaker LB, Anderson PM, Hu FS, Brown TA (2009) Vegetation mediated the impacts of postglacial climatic change on fire regimes in the south-central Brooks Range, Alaska. Ecol Monogr 79:201–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hobbie EA, Macko SA, Shugart HH (1999) Interpretation of nitrogen isotope signatures using the NIFTE model. Oecologia 120:405–415CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Houle D, Richard PJH, Ndzangou SO, Lafleche MR (2012) Compositional vegetation changes and increased red spruce abundance during the Little Ice Age in a sugar maple forest of north-eastern North America. Plant Ecol 213:1027–1035CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hu FS, Finney BP, Brubaker LB (2001) Effects of Holocene Alnus expansion on aquatic productivity, nitrogen cycling, and soil development in southwestern Alaska. Ecosystems 4:358–368. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hyodo F, Wardle DA (2009) Effect of ecosystem retrogression on stable nitrogen and carbon isotopes of plants, soils, and consumer organisms in boreal forest islands. Rapid Commun Mass Spec 23:1892–1898CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Jackson ST, Whitehead DR (1991) Holocene vegetation patterns in the Adirondack mountains. Ecology 72:641–653CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kay CE (ed) (2002) Preface. In: Wilderness and political ecology. University of Utah Press, pp xi–xixGoogle Scholar
  39. Keeling CD (1979) The Suess effect: 13 Carbon-14 carbon interrelations. Environ Inter 2:229–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kelly RF, Higuera PE, Barrett CM, Sheng Hu F (2010) A signal-to-noise index to quantify the potential for peak detection in sediment-charcoal records. Quat Res 75:11–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kohzu A, Tateishi T, Yamada A, Koba K, Wada E (2000) Nitrogen isotope fractionation during nitrogen transport from ectomycorrhizal fungi, Suillus granulatus, to the host plant, Pinus densiflora. Soil Sci Plant Nutr 46:733–739CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lafontaine-Boyer Gajewski K (2014) Vegetation dynamics in relation to late Holocene climate variability and disturbance, Outaouais, Quebec, Canada. Holocene 24:1515–1526CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lane CS, Horn SP, Mora CI (2004) Stable carbon isotope ratios in lake and swamp sediments as a proxy for prehistoric forest clearance and crop cultivation in the Neotropics. J Paleolimnol 32:375–381CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lane CS, Mora CI, Horn SP, Orvis KH (2008) Sensitivity of bulk sedimentary stable carbon isotopes to prehistoric forest clearance and maize agriculture. J Archaeol Sci 35:2119–2132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lane CS, Horn SP, Mora CI, Orvis KH (2009) Late-Holocene paleoenvironmental change at mid-elevation on the Caribbean slope of the Cordillera Central, Dominican Republic: a multi-site, multi-proxy analysis. Quat Sci Rev 28:2239–2260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Latty EF, Canham CD, Marks PL (2004) The effects of land-use history on soil properties and nutrient dynamics in northern hardwood forests of the Adirondack Mountains. Ecosystems 7:193–207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. LeBoeuf KA (2014) Holocene vegetation, hydrology, and fire in the north-central adirondacks of New York. Master’s thesis, Lehigh University, BethlehemGoogle Scholar
  48. Long CJ, Power MJ, Mcdonald B (2011) Millennial-scale fire and vegetation history from a mesic hardwood forest of southeastern Wisconsin, USA. J Quat Sci 26:318–325CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. McAndrews JH, Boyko-Diakonow M (1989) Pollen analysis of varved sediment at Crawford Lake, Ontario: evidence of Indian and European farming. Quat Geol CA GL Geol CA 1:528–530Google Scholar
  50. McAndrews JH, Turton CL (2007) Canada geese dispersed cultigen pollen grains from prehistoric Iroquoian fields to Crawford Lake, Ontario, Canada. Palynology 31:9–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. McLelland J (1991) Geology and geochronology of the Southern Adirondacks. In: Guidebook - NYS Geological Association, Meeting vol 63, pp 71–101Google Scholar
  52. Meyers PA, Teranes JL (2001) Sediment organic matter. In: Last WM, Smol JP (eds) Tracking environmental change using lake sediments 2. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp 239–269Google Scholar
  53. Millspaugh SH, Whitlock C (1995) A 750-year fire history based on lake sediment records in central Yellowstone-National Park, USA. Holocene 5:283–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Munoz SE, Gajewski K (2010) Distinguishing prehistoric human influence on late Holocene forests in southern Ontario, Canada. Holocene 20:967–981CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Nadelhoffer K, Shaver G, Fry B, Giblin A, Johnson L, McKane R (1996) 15N natural abundances and N use by tundra plants. Oecologia 107:386–394CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. New York State Adirondack Park Agency (2016)
  57. Overpeck JT (1985) A pollen study of a late quaternary peat bog, south-central Adirondack mountains, New York. GSA Bull 96:145–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Paquette N, Gajewski K (2013) Climatic change causes abrupt changes in forest composition, inferred from a high-resolution pollen record, southwestern Quebec, Canada. Quat Sci Rev 75:169–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Pederson DC, Peteet DM, Kurdyla D, Guilderson T (2005) Medieval warming, little ice age, and European impact on the environment during the last millennium in the lower Hudson Valley, New York, USA. Quat Res 63:238–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Peters ME, Higuera PE (2007) Quantifying the source area of macroscopic charcoal with a particle dispersal model. Quat Res 67:304–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Richard PJH (1970) Atlas pollinique des arbres et de quelques arbustes indigenes du Quebec. Natur Cand 97: 1–34, 97–161, 241–306Google Scholar
  62. Schlachter KJ, Horn SP (2009) Sample preparation methods and replicability in macroscopic charcoal analysis. DOI, J Paleolimnol. Google Scholar
  63. Stager JC (2017) Hidden heritage. Adirond Life March/April:54–66Google Scholar
  64. Stager JC, Cumming BF, Laird KR, Garrigan-Piela A, Pederson N, Wiltse B, Lane CS, Nester J, Ruzmaikin A (2016) A 1600-year diatom record of hydroclimate variability from Wolf Lake, New York. Holocene 27:246–257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Stockmarr J (1971) Tablets with spores used in absolute pollen analysis. Pollen Spores 13:615–621Google Scholar
  66. Stuiver M, Reimer PJ (1993) Extended 14C database and revised CALIB 3.0 14C age calibration program. Radiocarbon 35:215–230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Talbot MR (2001) Nitrogen isotopes in paleolimnology. In: Last WM, Smol JP (eds) Tracking Environmental ChangeUsing Lake Sediments 2. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, Netherlands, pp 401–435Google Scholar
  68. United States Department of Agriculture (2013) Official series description, Adirondack series.
  69. Wendel GW and Smith HC (1990) Eastern white pine. In: Burns RM, Honkala BH (1990) Silvics manual volume 1-conifers and volume 2-hardwoods. US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  70. Whitlock C, Larsen CPS (2001) Charcoal as a fire proxy. In: Smol JP, Birks HJB, Last WM (eds) Tracking environmental change using lake sediments 3. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, Netherlands, pp 75–97Google Scholar
  71. Woodhouse CA, Meko DM, MacDonald GM, Stahle DW, Cook ER (2010) A -year perspective on the 21st century drought in southwestern North America. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 107:21238–21288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Ziegler SS (2000) A comparison of structural characteristics between old-growth and postfire second-growth hemlock-hardwood forests in Adirondack Park, New York, U.S.A. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 9:373–389CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth and Ocean SciencesUniversity of North Carolina WilmingtonWilmingtonUSA
  2. 2.Natural Sciences DivisionPaul Smith’s CollegePaul SmithsUSA

Personalised recommendations