Pollen Analysis and Reconstruction of Paleoenvironments of a Wetland in Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge, San Luis Valley, Colorado

Authors: Carrie Deitz*, , Jared Beeton, co-author and advisor, Jennifer Lewis*, , Leah Biersack*, Fort Lewis College, Allison Hurcomb*, Fort Lewis College, Paula Pletnikoff*,
Topics: Paleoenvironmental Change, Arid Regions, Soils
Keywords: Paleo-wetland, palynology, pollen, wetland, paleoenvironment, peat, arid, climate change
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Wetlands are ecosystems that support biodiversity, improve water quality, and maintain surface flow during drought and in arid regions. The semi-arid San Luis Valley (SLV) in Colorado is home to many wetlands in the state including the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge (MVNWR). This research used pollen to reconstruct the paleoenvironments of a paleo-wetland at the MVNWR. Three paleo-wetland samples representing different layers of peat from the Scott Miller Mammoth Site and one nearby modern wetland sample were analyzed for radiocarbon age and paleoenvironmental conditions. Loss on ignition (LOI) testing was performed to calculate the percent of organic matter in each sample. Pollen samples were sent to the PaleoResearch Institute in Golden, Colorado for pollen analysis. LOI results show significant changes in organic matter in peat samples ranging from 11,390 ± 30 14C to present, suggesting fluctuations in climate from warm and dry to cold and wet, with a modern trending of a warm and dry climate. Picea, Abies, Juniperus, Sarcobatus and total pollen count concentration results reflect these patterns, as do changes in species composition from Abies to Pinus, suggesting the timberline ascended, typical of a warming climate. Our findings are congruent with previous research at Head Lake, Cumbres Bog, and Black Mountain Lake in the SLV. These data suggest that warmer conditions in the SLV result in drier conditions and have implications for future climate change in the region.

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