Pollen Influx and Volcanic Ash

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Science  21 Oct 1977:
Vol. 198, Issue 4314, pp. 257-261
DOI: 10.1126/science.198.4314.257


Pollen influx can be used to estimate the duration of short-term depositional events. When applied to volcanic ashes, it may also provide information on the season and ecological effects of ashfall. In our initial application of the method to volcanic ashes from Lost Trail Pass, Bitterroot Mountains, Montana, we have illustrated that (i) two falls of Glacier Peak ash, which occurred about 11,250 14C years ago, were separated by 10 to 25 years; and (ii) volcanic ash from a major eruption of Mount Mazama (about 6700 14C years ago) first fell in the autumn and 4.6 centimeters of ash was deposited before the following spring. We also believe there is a reasonable probability that (i) about 1 centimeter of ash fell during the following year and about 1.7 centimeters fell the year after; (ii) in all, the sporadic primary Mazama ashfall lasted for nearly 3 years; (iii) Mazama ash resulted in low lake productivity, as measured by the occurrence of Botryococcus and Pediastrum; (iv) Mazama ash, perhaps through a mulching effect, may have produced increased vigor and pollen production in some sagebrush steppe genera; and (v) as measured by the records of fossil pollen and acid-resistant algae, effects on the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems were short-lived. With refinement of the methods and broader geographic application, pollen influx studies may prove valuable for separating the regional and chronological details of tephra attributed to Mazama, Glacier Peak, and other Cascade Range volcanoes.