Local students presented at American Association of Geographers conference
Local students attended and presented at the American Association of Geographers conference held in Washington, D.C., from April 3 to 7, 2019.
This research started as a course project in the Fall of 2018 in ENVS 390, Environmental Colloquium, and is now published in Metamorphosis and has been presented at the national AAG conference. Wetlands are ecosystems that support biodiversity, improve water quality, and maintain surface flow during drought and in arid regions. The semi-arid San Luis Valley (SLV) in Colorado is home to many wetlands in the state including the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge (MVNWR). This research used pollen to reconstruct the paleoenvironments of a paleo-wetland at the MVNWR. Three paleo-wetland samples representing different layers of peat from the Scott Miller Mammoth Site and one nearby modern wetland sample were analyzed for radiocarbon age and paleoenvironmental conditions. Loss on ignition (LOI) testing was performed to calculate the percent of organic matter in each sample. Pollen samples were sent to the PaleoResearch Institute in Golden, Colorado for pollen analysis. LOI results show significant changes in organic matter in peat samples ranging from 11,390 30 14C to present, suggesting fluctuations in climate from warm and dry to cold and wet, with a modern trending of a warm and dry climate. Picea, Abies, Juniperus, Sarcobatus and total pollen count concentration results reflect these patterns, as do changes in species composition from Abies to Pinus, suggesting the timberline ascended, typical of a warming climate. Our findings are congruent with previous research at Head Lake, Cumbres Bog, and Black Mountain Lake in the SLV. These data suggest that warmer conditions in the SLV result in drier conditions and have implications for future climate change in the region.Suzanne Beuchaine, the MVNWR director, has discussed the importance of knowing when the wetlands were active and what caused them to drain. Our research may be able to help the MVNWR attain stronger water rights and refill the drained parts of the wetland providing a larger habitat area for migrating birds and other wildlife.