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Impacts of the Little Ice Age on the vegetation of eastern North America

The Little Ice Age had a significant impact on the the vegetation of eastern North America. So did previous century-scale climate changes, such as the Medieval Warm Period. What are these impacts? How did we determine this?

A decade-long project was established at the Center for Climatic Research at the University of Wisconsin to investigate these problems. This was headed by A Swain and involved several people. The basic data for this study were published by A Swain in Quaternary Research (1973, 1978) and by Gajewski (1987, Climatic impacts on the vegetation of eastern North America for the past 2000 years. Vegetatio 68:179-190). These data consist of 9 pollen diagrams from lakes with annually laminated sediments, where the pollen were samples at 10 - 40 yr intervals. These fine resolution pollen diagrams documented the changes in the vegetation across the White-Pine, Hemlock-Eastern hardwoods forest of North America, from the Great Lakes to New England for the past 1000 to 2000 years. A summary of the project can be found in Gajewski (1987, 1988). Evidence was found for a significant impact of century-scale climate variations on the forests of the region, suggesting a rapid response of the vegetation to climate change.

See also a recent review of this work.



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