A 16,000 14C yr B.P. packrat midden series from the USA-Mexico Borderlands

Camille A. Holmgren, M. Cristina Penalba, Kate Aasen Rylander, Julio L. Betancourt

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68 Scopus citations


A new packrat midden chronology from Playas Valley, southwestern New Mexico, is the first installment of an ongoing effort to reconstruct paleovegetation and paleoclimate in the U.S.A.-Mexico Borderlands. Playas Valley and neighboring basins supported pluvial lakes during full and/or late glacial times. Plant macrofossil and pollen assemblages from nine middens in the Playas Valley allow comparisons of two time intervals: 16,000-10,000 and 4000-0 14C yr B.P. Vegetation along pluvial lake margins consisted of open pinyon-juniper communities dominated by Pinus edulis, Juniperus scopulorum, Juniperus cf. coahuilensis, and a rich understory of C4 annuals and grasses. This summer-flowering understory is also characteristic of modern desert grassland in the Borderlands and indicates at least moderate summer precipitation. P. edulis and J. scopulorum disappeared or were rare in the midden record by 10,670 14C yr B.P. The late Holocene is marked by the arrival of Chihuahuan desert scrub elements and few departures as the vegetation gradually became modern in character. Larrea tridentata appears as late as 2190 14C yr B.P. based on macrofossils, but may have been present as early as 4095 14C yr B.P. based on pollen. Fouquieria splendens, one of the dominant desert species present at the site today, makes its first appearance only in the last millennium. The midden pollen assemblages are difficult to interpret; they lack modern analogs in surface pollen assemblages from stock tanks at different elevations in the Borderlands. © 2003 University of Washington. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)319-329
Number of pages11
JournalQuaternary Research
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2003
Externally publishedYes


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