Thirty Thousand Years of Vegetation Changes in the Alabama Hills, Owens Valley, California

Peter A. Koehler, Scott R Anderson

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Abstract

Twenty packrat (Neotoma) middens recovered from three sites (1265-1535 m) in the Alabama Hills, Inyo County, California, provide a ca. 31,450-yr record of vegetation change. Located ca. 7 km east of the Sierra Nevada, the middens document that Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma), Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia), and bitterbush (Purshia tridentata) occupied the site between 31,450 and 19,070 yr B.P. Joshua tree and bitterbush departed by ca. 17,760 yr B.P., with cliffrose (Purshia mexicana) and joint-fir (Ephedra viridis) appearing. By 13,350 yr B.P., blackbush (Coleogyne ramosissima) and cholla (Opuntia echinocarpa) entered the record. Between 9540 and 7990 yr B.P., Utah juniper and other species now extralocal to the sites departed and modern components such as wolfberry (Lycium andersonii) and rubber rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus teretifolius) appeared. The middle Holocene records little variation in plant macrofossil composition; however, pollen analysis reflects an increase in aquatic pollen types which might suggest more-open conditions. The transition to the modern vegetation associations at the sites occurred after ca. 2800 yr B.P. The record from the Alabama Hills correlates well with that of other regional vegetation data but documents conditions of increasing aridity earlier than many other packrat midden sites. A shift in understory vegetation between 19,070 and 17,760 yr B.P. may reflect a transition from glacial maximum to post-maximum conditions in the eastern Sierra Nevada.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)238-248
Number of pages11
JournalQuaternary Research
Volume43
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1995

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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