Ice Age Earth: Late Quaternary Geology and Climate (Physical Environment)

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02 - 2 The Great Ice Age - Pleistocene Glaciation

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Living in a Technological Culture Hans Oberdiek. The Civil Service Keith Dowding. Table of contents Acknowledgements Chapter 1. Introduction 2.

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Ocean Sediments and Ice Cores 3. Ice Age Palaeoclimates and Computer Simulations 4. Ice Age Periglacial Environments 7.


Lakes, Bogs and Mines 8. Rivers 9. Ice Age Aeolian Activity Competing interests: The author has declared that no competing interests exist. The topic has had increasing exposure over the past ten years because of the relevance of this, the most recent palaeontological extinction event, to modern concerns about biodiversity loss. Yet, as Sharon Levy convincingly argues in her excellent book, Once and Future Giants , the impact of this event, at least from a human perspective, is much greater than such figures would suggest. The ecological effect on many terrestrial ecosystems has been profound, the lost biomass being replaced by humans and their domestic livestock.

Some authors go further and suggest that the megafaunal extinction, now known to have played out over the past 40, years, represents the opening act of an ongoing, anthropogenic decimation of the biosphere that may build into a mass extinction to rival those of the geological past.

The basic outline of the debate has changed little in the past 50 years, although we now have far more data and a variety of sophisticated tools. Martin's key insight, that extinction followed the spread of humans across the globe, remains broadly intact: Australia first, some time around 50—40, years ago, then the Americas, between about 14—12, years ago, and in the last 2, years, the faunas of islands such as Madagascar, New Zealand, and the West Indies as they became colonised by humans.

Yet as extinctions are studied in more detail, with the aid of radiocarbon dating and other means, we see that the picture is more complex. Opponents of Martin's view had long cited climate change, during the last ice age and in the transition to the present interglacial, as key to the extinctions, and detailed mapping of climatic and vegetational change shows that mammal species did respond with major range shifts and often severe contractions that threatened their survival.

Quaternary glaciation in the Mediterranean mountains: a new synthesis

It is also clear that different species' extinctions were not always synchronous in a given region, in ways that probably relate to their individual ecologies. Grassland expansion was accompanied by opening of the boreal forest margin in northwestern Ontario to form parkland, at least locally, accompanied by extension of the range of plains bison Bison bison bison McAndrews, Treeline advance was slow here probably because the narrow strip of periglacial terrain between the ice sheet and the ocean remained chilled due to continued proximity of the ice front or due to the persistence of anticyclonic northeasterly winds off the Labrador Sea.

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As a whole, the eastern boreal forest was somewhat reduced in area, because of the northward expansion of mixed forest Saarnisto, ; McAndrews, ; Heide, ; Szeicz and MacDonald, during an interval when the northern forest margin was held in check by large glacial lakes that occupied the topographic slope toward Hudson Bay. Spruce and pine were the main components in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, with birch and fir the most significant associates.

Fir and white birch were the most significant associates, both widespread, along with alder in more open areas. West of Lake Huron, the most important associates were oak, elm, and birch. In Ontario and New York, oak and hemlock seem to have been the most common trees, with hemlock reaching greatest abundance — and in places being the most important tree — in New York. In Maine and the Maritimes, oak, fir, hemlock, and birch were the chief associates.

The deciduous forest expanded close to its modern northern limit, and somewhat farther in places, such as in Massachusetts Ogden, Hickory and beech were widespread, whereas elm, ash, and ironwood seem to have declined in importance in the east and birch in the west. Hemlock was important in Ontario, Pennsylvania and New England, and maple was most prominent within this biome in Ontario.

Meanwhile the southern limit of the deciduous forest moved northeastward leaving oak savannah in its wake in Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa.

The glacial pioneers

This change indicates a warming and drying of the eastern Great Plains Brush, ; King, The same climatic trend is indicated by northward expansion of interior forest and interior parkland in central British Columbia and by the establishment of this forest in presently wet areas of eastern Vancouver Island and the Fraser Lowland Hebda, Douglas fir, lodgepole pine, and in places Ponderosa pine were the key trees here, with alder, western hemlock, Sitka spruce, and fir as associates. Continued warming and drying in the American Cordillera led to further expansion of steppe from the Great Basin into high ground previously occupied by subalpine forest in Wyoming Albanese and Frison, , thus fragmenting that forest biome.

Meanwhile alpine timberline remained above present elevations in Colorado, Alberta, and southern British Columbia see above and Elias, ; Luckman ; Clague and Mathewes, For example, the dwarf Peary caribou Rangifer tarandus pearyi had expanded to the north coast of Ellesmere Island by 8.

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Thus herb tundra in the highest arctic had achieved a carrying capacity comparable to that of the present shortly after local deglaciation. Although the glacial anticyclone probably dissipated as a quasi-permanent feature with the opening of Hudson Bay, the remnant ice masses during this interval were still large enough to affect regional climate in their vicinities, but evidently not far afield.

Although herb tundra probably prevailed on eastern Baffin Island Miller et al. It is unclear whether the earliest birch on Baffin Island was Betula glandulosa from Labrador or Betula nana from Greenland. The latter has a restricted distribution on southeastern Baffin Island today Porsild, ; Andrews et al. Here green alder Alnus crispa and juniper seem to have arrived ahead of dwarf birch, the opposite of the sequence seen in Canada and Alaska. Alternatively, the strong rise in alder pollen at sites in Greenland at 7.

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Evidently this is the general interpretation accepted by Bennike , who places the arrival of alder in Greenland at 4. Nevertheless, Bennike accepts the arrival of juniper Juniperus communis in Greenland at 7. Plants in Greenland arrived most commonly from Iceland and — at least in the case of alder — from Labrador Bennike, In Iceland, a partial cover of forest tundra with tree birch Betula pubescens — the only forest tree to reach the island in the Holocene — had been established Hallsdottir, Latitudinal treeline fell somewhat short of its present position across most of Alaska, although forest tundra extended beyond the present limit of trees on Seward Peninsula, where beavers had been present since at least 9.

Similarly, the boreal forest still extended beyond its present limit in the Mackenzie Delta region.