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Pollen signatures of the arid to humid grasslands of North America

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Abstract Aim

Many studies have shown that the pollen record can be used to distinguish grasslands from other vegetation types at the biome level, but few have attempted to use pollen to distinguish between specific prairie types. This study was undertaken to determine whether the tallgrass, mixed-grass, shortgrass, and desert grasslands of North America have unique pollen signatures that can be used to distinguish between grasslands at the community-scale, rather than at the scale of the biome. Location

Data was collected from the southern North American grasslands of Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. Methods

High resolution, annual pollen-influx data gathered in Tauber pollen traps were analyzed using cluster analysis to summarize the pollen signature from each trap locality and to catagorize the samples into discrete grassland groups. Results

Based on the results of the cluster analysis, each grassland produces a distinctive pollen signature that can be used to distinguish between grassland types. In addition, pollen influx is shown to be closely correlated with annual precipitation. Main conclusions

The ability to distinguish between grassland types and to relate annual influx to annual precipitation has important implications for understanding the evolution of grasslands during the Holocene, for palaeoclimatic studies, and for monitoring ecosystem changes in the present-day grasslands.

Keywords: Chihuahuan Desert; North American grasslands; pollen; southern Great Plains

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA

Publication date: May 1, 2000

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