A 26,600 yr record of climate and vegetation from Rice Lake in the Eel River drainage of the northern California Coast Range

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Linda E Heusser, Lamont -Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, NY, United States
Rice Lake, (40’41” N; 123’30” W, 1109 m elev.) lies in the transition zone of the precipitation dipole in the western United States, which is reflected by the present vegetation – a mosaic of mesic northern mixed hardwood-evergreen forests (Quercus spp., Pinus spp.,  Calocedrus/Juniperus) and more arid southern oak foothill woodlands (Quercus spp.) that borders the westernmost edge of coastal redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) forest. The site, which lies on the active Lake Mountain fault zone, is now a large (~15 ha) sagpond that dries in summer. Between ~26,600 yr - ~15,000 yr, a permanent lake with aquatic vegetation (Isoetes) occupied the core site. Montane conifer forests, with pine (Pinus, spp.), mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana), spruce (Picea spp), and western hemlock (T. heterophylla) covered the region. Climatic parameters of modern montane coniferous forest and the continued presence of aquatic vegetation (Isoetes) suggest higher precipitation and lower temperatures during the last glacial. Charcoal (fire event frequency) was minimal. Rapid oscillations of oak, the riparian alder (Alnus), pine, Cupressaceae (Juniperus, Calocedrus), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menzeii), and fir (Abies) characterize the deglacial, and reflect rapid changes in precipitation and temperatures, e.g, Bølling-Allerød warming and Younger Dryas cooling. Between ~15,000 yr and ~13,000 yr, aquatic vegetation of the lake abruptly decreased. Expansion of oak, tanoak (Lithocarpus), shrubs (cf. Ceanothus) and decline of pine and montane conifers, along with the development of marshes with Typha and Cyperaceae on the former lakebed, imply early Holocene warming and decreasing precipitation. This is supported by an increase in charcoal, which is attributed to forest fires. Between ~5,000 yr - ~6,000 yr, a short interval of increased precipitation (inferred from a peak in alder and decrease in Cupressaceae) initiates the development of modern mixed hardwood-evergreen forest. Correlative data from terrestrial and marine climate proxies from a core located 33 km off the mouth of the Eel River, (TN062 0550, 40.9°N, 124.6°W, 569 m water depth) suggest that ENSO-like conditions typified the Holocene.