Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 177–193 | Cite as

Tundra and boreal forest of interior Alaska during terminal MIS 6 and MIS 5e

  • Nancy H. BigelowEmail author
  • Mary E. Edwards
  • Scott A. Elias
  • Thomas D. Hamilton
  • Charles E. Schweger
Original Article


Two sites within the boreal forest of interior Alaska shed light on the climate and vegetation of terminal marine isotope stage (MIS) 6 (ca. 140–130 kyr ago) and MIS 5e (125–116 kyr ago). The Birch Creek and Koyukuk localities are river-cut exposures with sediments dating from the penultimate glaciation (at least) to the present. Plant macrofossils, pollen, and beetles were analyzed at these sites. Terminal MIS 6-aged samples indicate a cooler than modern climate and the presence of shrub tundra. During MIS 5e, boreal forest grew at the sites and temperatures were similar to modern times. However, the forest may also have been more mesic than today, as indicated by relatively abundant ferns. Winters may have been warmer than today, as suggested by beetle-based climatic reconstructions as well as the presence of two extralimital taxa that today live in regions where winter temperatures are up to 15 °C warmer than at the site localities.


Alaska Boreal MIS 6 MIS 5e Palaeovegetation Coleoptera Palaeoclimate 



The macrofossil results presented here would not have been possible without Hilary Birks’ training of NHB in plant macrofossil identification. NHB spent a very enjoyable postdoctoral year in Bergen where she wallowed in plant debris and soaked up all palaeoecological things. This work was funded by National Science Foundation grant OPP-0002362 to SAE, TDH, and MEE. Glen Berger participated in the field work and was a key member of our team. His untimely death occurred before his final TL ages were available for this paper. We also thank Cary Mock for a helpful discussion of MIS 5 palaeoclimates. Dan Mann assisted in the fieldwork at Birch Creek. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments which greatly improved this paper.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 19 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nancy H. Bigelow
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mary E. Edwards
    • 1
    • 2
  • Scott A. Elias
    • 3
  • Thomas D. Hamilton
    • 4
  • Charles E. Schweger
    • 5
  1. 1.Alaska Quaternary CenterUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA
  2. 2.School of GeographyUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  3. 3.Department of GeographyRoyal Holloway, University of LondonEghamUK
  4. 4.AnchorageUSA
  5. 5.Department of Anthropology (Emeritus)University of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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