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Yellowstone National Park Report

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The research underway has focused on two different aspects of the environmental history of the Yellowstone/Grand Teton region. One objective has been to examine the long-term vegetational and climatic history of Jackson Hole, the Pinyon Peak Highlands, and Yellowstone Park since the end of late Pinedale glaciation, about 14,000 years ago. Fossil pollen in sediment cores from lakes in the region is being analyzed to clarify the nature and composition of ice-age refugia, the rate and direction of plant migrations in the initial stages of reforestation, and the long-term stability of postglacial communities. Sedimentary charcoal also is being examined to reconstruct fire frequency during different climatic regions and different vegetation types in the past. This information is necessary to assess the sensitivity of plant communities to environmental change and to understand postglacial landscapes of the northern rocky Mountains. The second objective has been a multidisciplinary investigation of the relationship of climate to sedimentation rates in lakes and ponds in Yellowstone, undertaken with Drs. Wright, D.R. Engstrom and S.C. Fritz of the University of Minnesota. This facet of the research examines the relative importance of climate, fire, hillslope erosion induced by overgrazing, and nutrient enrichment in the last 150 years, as recorded in selected lakes in the northern range of Yellowstone. Populations of elk and bison are known to have fluctuated greatly during this interval, and slight climatic changes are suggested from other lines of research. In this study pollen, diatoms, charcoal, sediment chemistry, and sediment accumulation rates are analyzed in short cores from small lakes.