The mid-Holocene decline of Tsuga canadensis (hereafter Tsuga) populations across eastern North America is widely perceived as a synchronous event, driven by pests/pathogens, rapid climate change, or both. Pattern identification and causal attribution are hampered by low stratigraphic density of pollen-sampling and radiometric dates at most sites, and by absence of highly resolved, paired pollen and paleoclimate records from single sediment cores, where chronological order of climatic and vegetational changes can be assessed. We present an intensely sampled (contiguous 1-cm intervals) record of pollen and water table depth (inferred from testate amoebae) from a single core spanning the Tsuga decline at Irwin Smith Bog in Lower Michigan, with high-precision chronology. We also present an intensively sampled pollen record from Tower Lake in Upper Michigan. Both sites show high-magnitude fluctuations in Tsuga pollen percentages during the pre-decline maximum. The terminal decline is dated at both sites ca. 5000 cal yr BP, some 400 years later than estimates from other sites and data compilations. The terminal Tsuga decline was evidently heterochronous across its range. A transient decline ca. 5350 cal yr BP at both sites may correspond to the terminal decline at other sites in eastern North America. At Irwin Smith Bog, the terminal Tsuga decline preceded an abrupt and persistent decline in water table depths by;200 years, suggesting the decline was not directly driven by abrupt climate change. The Tsuga decline may best be viewed as comprising at least three phases: a long-duration predecline maximum with high-magnitude and high-frequency fluctuations, followed by a terminal decline at individual sites, followed in turn by two millennia of persistently low Tsuga populations. These phases may not be causally linked, and may represent dynamics taking place at multiple temporal and spatial scales. Further progress toward understanding the phenomenon requires an expanded network of high-resolution pollen and paleoclimate chronologies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics