Pollen Analysis and Paleoenvironmental Reconstruction of Wetlands in the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge, San Luis Valley, Colorado
The San Luis Valley (SLV) in south-central Colorado has a high water table and contains many wetlands. This research focused on using pollen to reconstruct the paleoenvironments of two wetlands on the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge (MVNWR) in the SLV. Paleo-wetland and modern wetland samples were analyzed for radiocarbon age and paleoenvironmental conditions. Loss on Ignition results show significant changes in organic matter in samples aging 11,390 ± 30 14C to present, suggesting climate changes from warm-dry to cold-wet during the Younger Dryas, then warm-dry in the early Holocene, and finally a modern strengthening of a warm-dry climate. Picea, Abies, and Sarcobatus results reflect these patterns, as do changes in species composition from Abies to Pinus, which suggests treeline ascension, typical of a warming climate. These data suggest that warmer conditions in the SLV result in drier conditions, which have implications for future freshwater availability and the agricultural and recreational economy in the SLV.
Faculty Mentor: Jared Beeton