Vegetation and climate change in eastern North America since the last glacial maximum

I. C. Prentice, P. J. Bartlein, T. Webb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

358 Citations (Scopus)


Response surfaces describing the empirical dependence of surface pollen percentages of 13 taxa on three standard climatic variables (mean July temperature, mean January temperature, and mean annual precipitation) in eastern North America were used to infer past climates from palynological data. Inferred climates at 3000-yr intervals from 18 000 years ago to the present, based on six taxa (spruce, birch, northern pines, oak, southern pines, and prairie forbs), were used to generate time series of simulated isopoll maps for these taxa and seven others (hickory, fir, beech, hemlock, elm, alder, and sedge). These results establish that the continental-scale vegetation patterns have responded to continuous changes in climate from the last glacial maximum to the present, with lags ≤1500 yr. The inferred climatic changes include seasonality changes consistent with orbitally controlled changes in insolation, and shifts in temperature and moisture gradients that are consistent with modelled climatic interactions of the insolation changes with the shrinking Laurentide Ice Sheet. -from Authors

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2038-2056
Number of pages19
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes


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