A 1520-cm sediment core from Lake Patzcuaro, Michoacan, Mexico, is 44,000 yr old at the base. All parts of the core have abundant pollen of Pinus (pine), Alnus (alder), and Quercus (oak) with frequent Abies (fir). The interval dated from 44,000 to 11,000 yr ago has a homogeneous flora characterized by abundant Juniperus (juniper) pollen and frequent Artemisia (sagebrush). It is believed to represent an appreciably drier and colder climate than at present. The Holocene at Lake Patzcuaro is characterized by a moderate increase in Pinus pollen and the loss of Juniperus pollen, as the modern type of climate succeeded. Alnus was abundant until about 5000 yr ago; its abrupt decrease with the first appearance of herbaceous weed pollen may reflect the cutting of lake-shore and stream-course alder communities for agricultural purposes, or it may simply reflect a drying tendency in the climate. Pollen of Zea (corn) appears at Lake Patzcuaro along with low peaks of chenopod and grass pollen at 3500 yr B.P. apparently recording a human population large enough to modify the natural environment, as well as the beginning of agriculture. A rich aquatic flora in this phase suggests eutrophication of the lake by slope erosion. In the most recent period corn is absent from the sediments, perhaps reflecting a change in agricultural practices. The environment changes at Lake Patzcuaro are similar to and correlate with those in the Cuenca de Mexico, where diatom stratigraphy from the Chalco basin indicates fluctuations in lake levels and lake chemistry in response to variations in available moisture. Before 10,000 yr ago climates there were cool and dry, and the Chalco basin was occupied by a shallow freshwater marsh that drained north to Lake Texcoco, where saline water accumulated by evaporation. Increases in effective moisture and possible melting of glaciers during the Holocene caused lake levels to rise throughout the Cuenca de Mexico, and Lake Texcoco flooded the Chalco basin with brackish water. After 5000 yr ago such flooding decreased, and shallow freshwater ponds and marshes were restored in the Chalco basin. This environmental change coincides with the appearance of Zea pollen and suggests cultural control of lake levels and salinity. ?? 1982.
Additional Publication Details
Paleoecological studies at Lake Patzcuaro on the west-central Mexican Plateau and at Chalco in the basin of Mexico