A chronological framework for the Holocene vegetational history of central Minnesota: The Steel Lake pollen record

Herbert E. Wright, Ivanka Stefanova, Jian Tian, Thomas A. Brown, Feng Sheng Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Paleorecords from Minnesota and adjacent areas have often been used to evaluate large-scale climatic processes in the mid-continent of North America. However, most of these records are compromised by chronological flaws, making problematic any comparisons with climatic interpretations based on other records (e.g., GISP2 in Greenland). We report here a high-resolution pollen record with a secure chronology constrained by 26 14C dates on terrestrial macrofossils from Steel Lake, central Minnesota. About 11.2ka cal BP (11,000 calibrated yr before present) the late-glacial Picea forest near Steel Lake was succeeded abruptly by Pinus banksiana and/or resinosa. The Pinus forest began to open 9.4ka cal BP with the expansion of prairie taxa, and a pine parkland or savanna prevailed until about 8ka cal BP, when Quercus replaced Pinus to become the dominant tree in the prairie areas for 4500 yr. The close chronological control permits the correlation of key vegetational changes with those at other reliably dated sites in the eastern Dakotas and in Minnesota, suggesting that the abrupt decline of the spruce forest was time-transgressive from southwest to northeast during 2000 yr, and that the development of prairie was time-transgressive in the same direction over 2600 yr. Correlation of key pollen horizons at Steel Lake with those in the high-resolution pollen profiles of Elk Lake, ca. 50km northwest of Steel Lake, suggests that the well-known Elk Lake varve chronology for the early Holocene is about 1000 yr too young.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)611-626
Number of pages16
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Mar 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Geology


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