• Depositional Environments Of The Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) Dinosaur-Bearing Prince Creek Formation: Colville River Region, North Slope, Alaska

      Flaig, Peter Paul; McCarthy, Paul J. (2010)
      The Prince Creek Formation contains first-order meandering trunk channels, second-order meandering distributary channels, third-order fixed anastomosed(?) distributary channels, crevasse splays, levees, lakes, ponds, swamps, paleosols, and ashfall deposits. Trampling by dinosaurs is common. Most deposition occurred on crevasse splay-complexes adjacent to trunk channels. Rhythmically-repeating coarse-to fine-grained couplets in inclined heterolithic stratification suggest tidal-influence in channels. Cumulative to compound soils similar to Entisols, Inceptisols, and potential acid sulfate soils formed on levees, point bars, crevasse splays, and on the margins of lakes and swamps. Frequent overbank flooding is evidenced by silt and sand dispersed throughout paleosol profiles and fluctuations with depth in several molecular ratios. Drab colors, organics, siderite, depletion coatings, and zoned peds indicate waterlogged, anoxic conditions while ferruginous and manganiferous features, insect and worm burrows, and rare illuvial clay coatings and infillings suggest drying and oxidation of some soils. Repeated wetting and drying is tied to fluctuating river discharge. Marine influence is evidenced by jarosite, pyrite, and gypsum which become increasingly common up-section near the contact with the shallow-marine Schrader Bluff Formation. Pollen includes Peridinioid dinocysts; algae; projectates; Wodehouseia edmontonicola; pollen from lowland trees, shrubs and herbs; Bisaccates; fern and moss spores; and fungal hyphae and indicates that all strata are Early Maastrichtian and that sediments become progressively younger to the north. 40Ar/39Ar analysis of a tuff returned an age of 69.2 +/- 0.5 Ma. World-class dinosaur bonebeds are encased in muddy overbank alluvium overlying floodplains. No concentration of bone was found in channels. Bonebeds are laterally extensive except where truncated by distributaries. At the Sling Pont, Liscomb, and Byers bonebeds alluvium encasing bone exhibits a bipartite division of flow and a massive mudstone facies containing flow-parallel plant fragments that "float" in a mud matrix suggesting deposition by fine-grained hyperconcentrated flows. Exceptional floods driven by seasonal snowmelt in the Brooks Range increased suspended sediment concentrations, generating hyperconcentrated overbank flows that killed and buried scores of juvenile dinosaurs occupying this high-latitude coastal plain. This unique killing mechanism likely resulted from fluctuating discharge tied to extreme seasonality brought about by the near polar latitude of northern Alaska in the Late Cretaceous.
    • Late Quaternary vegetation and lake level changes in central Alaska

      Bigelow, Nancy Horner; Edwards, Mary E.; Powers, W. Roger (1997)
      The threat of significant high-latitude global warming over the next 50 years requires that we assess the response of vegetation to climate change. One approach is to see how plants have reacted to past climate change. In this study high-resolution reconstructions of past vegetation and climate, based on pollen and lake level changes, provide useful insights into vegetation and climate change in central Alaska since 14,000 years ago. Climate changed substantially at about 12,000 years ago, between 11,000 and 10,000 years ago, and about 8,000 years ago. At 12,000 years ago, a significant transition is reflected by the appearance of shrub birch into a region that had been dominated by grass, sage, and sedge. The vegetation became denser; shrubs occupied the moister sites, and herbaceous taxa grew on well-drained, exposed ridges and slopes. Lake levels increased at this time, suggesting the climate became warmer and wetter than it had been previously. Between 11,000 and 10,000 years ago, the vegetation at some sites reverted to a grass and sage-rich flora, suggesting a return to drier and/or cooler conditions. This period of climate change has not been recognized before from pollen records in central Alaska. The timing of this vegetation shift suggests it is related to the Younger Dryas event, a world-wide episode of climatic deterioration. About 8,500 to 8,000 years ago, spruce appeared in the region, coincident with a significant lake level rise, suggesting that the spruce expansion was aided by wetter conditions, as well as warmer temperatures. In central Alaska, periods of past vegetation change are marked by shifts in moisture. Today, central Alaska receives very little rain, and in some areas the vegetation is moisture-limited, suggesting that during the past, changes in moisture could have had a strong effect on the vegetation. In terms of future global change, this study suggests that any shifts in moisture associated with the predicted temperature changes, especially towards drier conditions, will strongly affect the current vegetation distribution.
    • Millennial To Annual Scale Paleoclimatic Change In Central Alaska During The Late Quaternary Interpreted From Lake Sediments And Tree Rings

      Barber, Valerie Ann; Finney, Bruce; Juday, Glenn (2002)
      The theme of this dissertation is the importance of effective moisture (precipitation minus evaporation) in subarctic ecosystems. Interior Alaska has a relatively dry climate with annual precipitation ranging from 25--45 cm. Records from interior Alaska lake sediment cores show low lake levels following the Last Glacial Maximum, with significant increases at 12,000 and 9,000 14C years BP. Using lake-level reconstructions and models based on modern hydrologic and meteorologic data, we infer precipitation of 35--75% less than modern at 12,000 yr. BP, 25--45% less than modern at 9,000 yr. BP, and 10--20% less than modern at 6,000 yr. BP. Trees were scarce on the interior Alaskan landscape during the late Pleistocene with birch species appearing about 12,000 BP and spruce species approximately 3500 years later. The correspondence between lake-level and vegetation changes suggests that moisture may have been one of the limiting factors in the establishment of these tree species. Alaska climate records show a climatic regime shift in the mid-1970s. Less effective moisture is available over the past 30 years because summer temperatures in interior Alaska have been increasing without a concurrent increase in precipitation. Radial growth of white spruce at 20 low elevation stands in interior Alaska declined corresponding with this climatic change. The observation that moisture limits spruce growth in Alaska today is consistent with our inference of moisture limitation in the early Holocene. A 200-year reconstruction was developed based on two tree ring proxies, 13C discrimination and maximum latewood density, which together show excellent agreement with the recorded Fairbanks average May through August temperatures. The first half of the 20th century is characterized by the coolest summers of the 200 year period of reconstruction, while the latter part of the 20th century, particularly from 1974 onward, is characterized by some of the warmest summers of the 200 year period. Mid-19 th summer temperatures reconstruct to be as warm as the latter part of the 20th century, which is inconsistent with reconstructions of other regions. It seems likely, based on current information, that these inconsistencies may be real and may reflect regional synoptic conditions unique to interior Alaska. Distinctive decadal scale regimes were identified throughout the record.
    • Paleoecology and ecomorphology of the giant short-faced bear in Eastern Beringia

      Matheus, Paul Edward; Guthrie, R. Dale (1997)
      The short-faced bear (Arctodus simus) was a widespread Tremarctine bear indigenous to North America until its extinction around 11,500 BP. Arctodus inhabited Pleistocene ice-free refugia in Eastern Beringia (the northwestern limit of its range) until at least 20,000 BP. Because of its gracile, long-legged build and extremely large size, most paleontologists believe this bear was a high-speed pursuit predator which had preyed on the largest herbivores of Pleistocene North America. Alternatively, energetic arguments have been used to suggest that Arctodus was too large to be carnivorous and evolved its large size within an herbivorous or omnivorous niche. To test these competing hypotheses, I reconstructed aspects of Arctodus' trophic position and paleodiet by analyzing stable isotope ratios ($\delta\ \sp{13}$C and $\delta\ \sp{15}$N) in bone collagen extracted from east Beringian fossils. Other bears and carnivores from Beringia were analyzed to help interpret the results. Isotopes reveal that Arctodus was highly carnivorous, it fed on herbivores which consumed C3 vegetation, and it did not eat salmon. The herbivore/omnivore hypothesis is thus rejected. Predatory hypotheses predict that we should find certain morphological features in a predatory bear which would enhance one or more of the following skills: top running speed, acceleration, or maneuverability at high speeds. I re-analyzed the postcranial morphology of Arctodus and used data on running speed and bone strength in other large mammals to show that a bear the size of Arctodus with long, gracile limbs would not have been able to endure the extreme dynamic forces incurred during predatory activities. Instead, Arctodus' morphology and body size indicate it had evolved to maximize locomotor efficiency using a pacing gait. I suggest that Arctodus evolved as a specialized scavenger adapted to cover an extremely large home range in order to seek out, procure, and defend large-mammal carcasses from other carnivores. By modeling herbivore populations and their mortality, I show that enough carcass biomass was being produced in Pleistocene Beringia to make this scavenging niche energetically feasible. The model helps show that Arctodus' extinction probably is best tied to a reduction of year-round carcasses on the landscape, a condition which arose in the Holocene when the herbivore fauna became less diverse and began to experience more seasonal mortality.
    • Sand dune field paleoenvironment, paleoecology, and human environmental interaction in the middle Tanana River Valley near the Gerstle River, subarctic Alaska: the late glacial to the middle Holocene

      Bowman, Robert C.; Reuther, Joshua D.; Potter, Ben A.; Clark, Jamie L. (2017-08)
      This study was conducted to explore paleoenvironmental change within the Gerstle-Sawmill Dune Field (GSDF), located just west of the Gerstle River in the middle Tanana River valley, Interior Alaska from the late Glacial to the middle Holocene. Specifically, this study was undertaken to document human-environment interaction on the landscape. Geoarchaeological methods were used in order to determine the history of sand dune development across the area, how the local ecological systems changed through time, and determine prehistoric human use of environment and response to environmental and ecological change. The data collected from these locations was used to create a model for sand dunes and human land use regarding local ecological stability and dynamic sand dune deposition. Patterns of human land use within the GSDF were then compared with data collected from sites in proximity to the GSDF to determine how this portion of the environment operated within the larger geographic area. This geoarchaeological research aids in understanding ecological patterning within terrestrial lowland systems from the Late Glacial to the Middle Holocene, with regard to human land use dynamics within a changing geomorphological system.