Articles | Volume 9, issue 3
Research article
11 Jun 2013
Research article |  | 11 Jun 2013

Vegetation responses to interglacial warming in the Arctic: examples from Lake El'gygytgyn, Far East Russian Arctic

A. V. Lozhkin and P. M. Anderson

Abstract. Preliminary analyses of Lake El'gygytgyn sediment indicate a wide range of ecosystem responses to warmer than present climates. While palynological work describing all interglacial vegetation is ongoing, sufficient data exist to compare recent warm events (the postglacial thermal maximum, PGTM, and marine isotope stage, MIS5) with "super" interglaciations (MIS11, MIS31). Palynological assemblages associated with these climatic optima suggest two types of vegetation responses: one dominated by deciduous taxa (PGTM, MIS5) and the second by evergreen conifers (MIS11, MIS31). MIS11 forests show a similarity to modern Picea–Larix–Betula–Alnus forests of Siberia. While dark coniferous forest also characterizes MIS31, the pollen taxa show an affinity to the boreal forest of the lower Amur valley (southern Russian Far East). Despite vegetation differences during these thermal maxima, all glacial–interglacial transitions are alike, being dominated by deciduous woody taxa. Initially Betula shrub tundra established and was replaced by tundra with tree-sized shrubs (PGTM), Betula woodland (MIS5), or Betula–Larix (MIS11, MIS31) forest. The consistent occurrence of deciduous forest and/or high shrub tundra before the incidence of maximum warmth underscores the importance of this biome for modeling efforts. The El'gygytgyn data also suggest a possible elimination or massive reduction of Arctic plant communities under extreme warm-earth scenarios.