Late Pleistocene Vegetation and Degree of Pluvial Climatic Change in the Chihuahuan Desert

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Science  26 Aug 1966:
Vol. 153, Issue 3739, pp. 970-975
DOI: 10.1126/science.153.3739.970


Eight Pleistocene wood rat middens at elevations of 1200, 880, and 600 meters in the Chihuahuan Desert contain abundant macrofossils of pinyon pine, juniper, shrubby liveoak, and Opuntia, together with smaller quantities of Agave lecheguilla and other xerophytes of existing desert vegetation, which in dicate a xerophilous woodland vegetation in the lowlands, as much as 800 meters below existing woodland, during the Wisconsin pluvial. Ten radiocarbon dates show ages that range from 11,560 to 14,800 and 16,250 to 20,000 years, and to more than 40,000 years. Absence of most mesophytic montane species in deposits as high as 1200 meters indicates a lack of equivalent downward dis placement for the ponderosa pine zone or other zones of montane vegetation. Uneven stocking of isolated peaks in the Chihuahuan Desert province with montane species suggests that long-distance transport of propagules, rather than former continuity, may account for the disjunct distributions of many species.