Debra A. Willard


  Palynological and paleobotanical research on upper Pliocene sediments from Meighen Island, Kap København, and deep-sea sites in the North Atlantic Ocean has indicated the presence of forest tundra far north of its present limits and warmer conditions than present. New pollen data from samples obtained on Ocean Drilling Program Leg 151 (Sites 910 and 911) on the Yermak Plateau of the Arctic Ocean provide a record of late Pliocene terrestrial floras characteristic of at least boreal to subarctic climatic conditions in the source areas. Pollen and spores are present in upper Pliocene sediments from both cores, with typical concentrations of 1,000 to 2,000 pollen grains per gram of dry sediment. Pinus is the dominant genus in upper Pliocene assemblages, and Picea and Betula are subdominant. Other taxa typically present include Alnus, Corylus, Larix, Tsuga, Pterocarya, Sciadopitys and members of the Poaceae, Cyperaceae, Asteraceae, and Ericaceae. These assemblages are suggestive of open boreal vegetation with relatively temperate deciduous elements and indicate warmer Pliocene conditions than today in the pollen source areas. Pleistocene pollen assemblages from Site 911 consist primarily of Pinus and Picea pollen with few other taxa present. Such assemblages indicate cold conditions, probably similar to those of today, and palynomorphs are less common in Pleistocene sediments, typically <1,000 pollen grains per gram of dry sediment. In both cores, most reworked palynomorphs, which are two to three times more abundant than nonreworked ones, are Cretaceous in age and include genera characteristic of both the Aquilapollenites and Normapolles provinces; this composition suggests that the source or reworked material was the northern Asian coast between the Barents Sea and Laptev Sea, the main region where Cretaceous rocks containing both these assemblages are preserved. These reworked palynomorphs probably were transported either by sea ice or ocean currents via the Transpolar Drift to the Yermak Plateau sites.

Date of initial receipt: 5 July 1995
Date of acceptance: 12 December 1995

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