PALEOECOLOGY

Climate change in a mountain ecosystem

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Science  31 Aug 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6405, pp. 889
DOI: 10.1126/science.361.6405.889-a

Conifer pollen from Yellowstone lake sediments reveals vegetation shifts over 18,000 years.

PHOTO: DESIGN PICS/DAVID PONTON/GETTY IMAGES

Fossil pollen in lake sediments provides valuable records of past vegetation patterns and offers a baseline for assessing how vegetation responds to climate change. To assess how the vegetation composition and distribution of a mountain system has varied with climate change over 18,000 years, Iglesias et al. studied pollen sequences from lakes in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem of the United States. They found complex patterns, with long-term stability in some plant communities and rapid change in others. The present-day mixed conifer forest cover, known to be vulnerable to climate warming, is now more compressed in its elevation range than in previous postglacial millennia. These data provide a context for assessing future responses to climate change.

J. Biogeogr. 45, 1768 (2018).

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