, Volume 68, Issue 3, pp 179–190

Climatic impacts on the vegetation of eastern North America during the past 2000 years

  • K. Gajewski

DOI: 10.1007/BF00114719

Cite this article as:
Gajewski, K. Vegetatio (1987) 68: 179. doi:10.1007/BF00114719


Pollen diagrams from seven lakes with annually laminated sediments sampled at 40-year intervals are analyzed to isolate the climatic effects from other effects on the long-term dynamics of vegetation during the past 1000–2000 years along a transect from Maine to Minnesota. Principal components analysis is used to reduce the dimensionality of the pollen data. The pollen records from all lakes show long-term trends, medium frequency oscillations, and higher frequency fluctuations. The long-term trend is associated with the neoglacial expansion of the boreal forest. The mechanism causing this replacement is a change in frequency of air masses in the area. The medium-frequency oscillations are also associated with climate changes, the most recent of which is the ‘Little Ice Age’. The climate-related mechanism causing the medium-frequency changes may be changes in disturbance frequency. The higher frequency fluctuations may also be related to disturbance.

This analysis of pollen diagrams into time scales of variation has enabled the separation of climate from other factors affecting vegetation dynamics. By comparing the principal components across a transect of sites it proved possible to interpret the climatic effects on vegetation at most sites and not only at range boundaries and ‘sensitive’ sites.


Climatic changeEnvironmental impactLate-HoloceneMidwestern United StatesNortheastern United StatesPaleoecologyPalynologyPrincipal component analysisScale effectVegetation change

Copyright information

© Dr W. Junk Publishers 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. Gajewski
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Climatic Research, Institute of Environmental StudiesUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Division of Life Sciences, Scarborough CampusUniversity of TorontoScarboroughCanada