Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 10:00 AM
CLIMATIC AND HUMAN CONTROLS ON HOLOCENE VEGETATION CHANGES IN EASTERN PENNSYLVANIA BASED ON THE ISOTOPIC COMPOSITION OF SOIL ORGANIC CARBON
The δ13C of soil organic carbon and phytolith analysis are useful proxies for estimating the above-ground concentrations of C3:C4 biomass, which in turn, can be used to infer secular changes in vegetation, climate, and land-use. A soil δ13C time-series that spans the Holocene was constructed using 169 soil δ13C values, 22 radiocarbon ages, and artifacts from 6 floodplain soil profiles along the middle Delaware River valley. There is good agreement between increasing soil δ13C and Panicoideae phytolith concentrations (R^2=0.86, p=0.0003) within the samples, suggesting that variations in C4 biomass is a major contributor to changes in the soil δ13C. A local regression (LOESS) curve through the entire dataset reveals eight isotope stages (I-VIII), with four distinct stages exhibiting more positive δ 13C (more C4). Stage II, 9.5-8.5 Cal ka, is the most notable positive δ13C interval and is associated with a cool-dry climate and the 9.2 ka abrupt climate change event which further promoted dry conditions. Stage IV, 5.7-4.4 ka, is a positive δ13C interval associated with the mid-Holocene warm-dry climatic optimum and a notable drop in regional lake levels. Stage VI & VIII (more C4) coincide with the first documented occurrence of maize in the NE USA and a substantial increase in population and maize-based agriculture during the Late Woodland cultural period, respectively. These associations suggest that humans influenced δ13C values during portions of the late Holocene. The trend towards more negative δ13C values during stage IX likely reflects the combination of forest recovery due to post-pandemic mortality and forced relocation of indigenous people. The results from this study suggest that variations in (paleo)soil δ13C along the Delaware River valley are partly controlled by changes in ground cover due to climate change and land-use. In particular Late Woodland farming and forest clearance had a notable effect on the soil δ13C signature in NE USA.