After more than half a century of paleoenvironmental investigations, disagreements persist as to the nature of vegetation type and climate of the Bering land bridge (BLB) during the late Wisconsin (Sartan) glacial interval. Few data exist from sites on the former land bridge, now submerged under the Bering and Chukchi Seas. Two hypotheses have emerged during the past decade. The first, based on pollen data from Bering Sea islands and adjacent mainlands of western Alaska and Northeast Siberia, represents the likely predominant vegetation on the Bering land bridge during full-glacial conditions: graminoid-herb-willow tundra vegetation associated with cold, dry winters and cool, dry summer climate. The second hypothesis suggests that dwarf birch-shrub-herb tundra formed a broad belt across the BLB, and that mesic vegetation was associated with cold, snowier winters and moist, cool summers. As a step towards resolving this controversy, a sediment core from Norton Sound, northeastern Bering Sea was radiocarbon dated and analyzed for pollen content. Two pollen zones were identified. The older, bracketed by radiocarbon ages of 29,500 and 11,515 14C yr BP, contains pollen assemblages composed of grass, sedge, wormwood, willow, and a variety of herb (forb) taxa. These assemblages are interpreted to represent graminoid-herb-willow tundra vegetation that developed under an arid, cool climate regime. The younger pollen zone sediments were deposited about 11,515 14C yr BP, when rising sea level had begun to flood the BLB. This younger pollen zone contains pollen of birch, willow, heaths, aquatic plants, and spores of sphagnum moss. This is interpreted to represent a Lateglacial dwarf birch-heath-willow-herb tundra vegetation, likely associated with a wetter climate with deeper winter snows, and moist, cool summers. This record supports the first hypothesis, that graminoid-herb-willow tundra vegetation extended into the lowlands of the BLB during full glacial conditions of the late Wisconsin. ?? 2008 Regents of the University of Colorado.
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Pollen evidence for late pleistocene bering land bridge environments from Norton Sound, Northeastern Bering Sea, Alaska