Geobotany pp 1-27 | Cite as

Late Pleistocene and Postglacial Plant Communities of the Great Lakes Region

  • Ronald O. Kapp


The few available interglacial pollen studies from the southern Great Lakes region show developmental sequences and pollen assemblages with striking similarities to postglacial records. A five-stage cycle of glacial and interglacial vegetation phases is postulated and applied to data from this region. There is limited evidence, however, of late Pleistocene changes in genetic potential of certain species (e.g., Picea mariana). Also, some interglacial and interstadial (glacial age pollen records indicate that ranges of certain tree genera or forest communities extended beyond their modern ranges.

Late-glacial (post-Wisconsinan) records in the glaciated Great Lakes region do not consistently give evidence of tundra vegetation; instead, “open forests” may have existed in ice-margin areas. The major climatic/ecologic break at about 10,500 B.P. initiated a developmental sequence of postglacial hardwood forests which is remarkably consistent throughout the region. Migration routes were influenced by both physiographic (Appalachians, Great Lakes) and climatic factors. The spread of Fagus and Tsuga to their present ranges in glaciated areas is re-examined; additional detailed radiocarbon-dated analyses are required to document these migrational patterns.

The strong correspondence of patterns of contemporary pollen spectra and vegetational distribution has been revealed by recent detailed studies; this restores confidence in the paleoecological validity of pollen analysis. By utilizing statistical procedures, both regional and local vegetational composition can, within limits, be directly correlated with pollen spectra. Overall, paleoecological research suggests that plant communities of the Great Lakes region have had remarkable continuity throughout the late Pleistocene. Although climatic conditions, extensive glacial meltwater channels, and fluctuations in the level and drainage of the Great Lakes apparently explain certain extensions of range and novel plan assemblages, patterns of forest migrations and succession are predictable.


Great Lake Late PLEISTOCENE Pollen Analysis Pollen Record Pollen Diagram 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronald O. Kapp
    • 1
  1. 1.Alma CollegeAlmaUSA

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