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Yellowstone National Park Report

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The Paleoecologic recod provides unique insights into the response of communities to environmental perturbations of different duration and intensity. Climate is a primary agent of environmental change and its long-term effect on the vegetation of the Yellowstone/Grand Teton region is revealed in a network of pollen records (Whitlock, 1993). Fire frequency is controlled by climate, and as climate changes so too does the importance of fire in shaping spatial patterns of vegetation. The prehistoric record of Yellowstone's Northern Range, for example, shows the response of vegetation to the absence of major fires in the last 150 years (Whitlock et al., 1991; Engstrom et al., 1991). In longer records spanning the last 14,000 years, periods of frequent fire are suggested by sediments containing high percentages of fire-adapted trees, including lodgepole pine and Douglas-fir, and high amounts of charcoal (Bamosky et al., 1987; Millspaugh and Whitlock, 1993; Whitlock, 1993). The primary research objective has been to study the vegetational history of Yellowstone and its sensitivity to hanges in climate and fire frequency. This information is necessary to understand better the relative effects of climate, natural disturbance, and human perturbation on the Yellowstone landscape. Fossil pollen and plant macrofossils from dated-lake sediment cores provide information on past vegetation and climate. The frequency of charcoal particles and other fire indicators in dated lake-sediment cores offer evidence of past fires.