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Hydrologic response of desert wetlands to Holocene climate change: preliminary results from the Soda Springs area, Mojave National Preserve, California

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Abstract

Desert wetlands are common features in arid environments and include a variety of hydrologic facies, including seeps, springs, marshes, wet meadows, ponds, and spring pools. Wet ground conditions and dense stands of vegetation in these settings combine to trap eolian, alluvial, and fluvial sediments that accumulate over time. The resulting deposits are collectively called ground-water discharge (GWD) deposits, and contain information on how small desert watersheds responded to climate change in the past. Most GWD studies in the southwestern U.S. have focused on the late Pleistocene because the Holocene was too dry to support the extensive wetland systems that were so pervasive just a few millennia earlier. Here we describe the results of a pilot project that involves coring extant wetlands and analyzing the sedimentology and microfauna of the recovered sediment to infer Holocene hydrologic conditions. In 2011, a series of cores were taken near wetlands situated along the western margin of the Soda Lake basin in the Mojave National Preserve of southern California. The core sediments appear to show that the wetlands responded to the relatively minor climate fluctuations that characterized the Holocene. However, our analysis was limited by relatively low sediment recovery (which only averaged 70-80%) and a general paucity of datable materials in the cores. Additional studies aimed at improving recovery and developing new techniques for concentrating plant microfossils (plant remains that are <150 m in diameter) for radiocarbon dating are ongoing.

Additional publication details

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Hydrologic response of desert wetlands to Holocene climate change: preliminary results from the Soda Springs area, Mojave National Preserve, California
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Death Valley Natural History Association
Contributing office(s) Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center
Description 18 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Conference publication
Larger Work Title Proceedings of the 1st Death Valley Natural History Conference
First page 2
Last page 19
Conference Title First Death Valley Natural History Conference