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Pittsburg Basin, in south-central Illinois, contains a sediment record extending from the present back to the end of the late Illinoian glaciation, when central Illinois was covered with Picea/Pinus forest. During the last interglaciation, a temperate deciduous forest more diverse than Holocene Quercus/Carya forest replaced the Illinoian late-glacial boreal forest. Prairie pollen types and the charcoal/pollen ratio, indicating fire frequency, temporarily increased. Then forest, with high Juniperus percentages, became dominant once more, as the charcoal/pollen ratio dropped. After the last interglaciation, the charcoal/pollen ratio increased again and prairie and wetland surrounded Pittsburg Basin through the entire Wisconsinan glacial age. The area was still prairie in late Wisconsinan time, but with some Picea and Pinus. During the Holocene, the region has been a mixture of prairie and Quercus/Carya forest. During the last interglaciation, Pittsburg Basin was surrounded by vegetation different from that surrounding it during the present interglaciation. Rather than indicating substantial differences in climate between analogous phases of different glacial/interglacial cycles, this variation may be due to changes in fire frequency, which could be caused by small changes in climate, human activity, or differences in soil.


Downloadable article is the author's accepted manuscript.



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