Late Quaternary Landscape Change and Large Mammal Habitat Fragmentation in Interior Alaska


It has been known for sometime that interior Alaskan terrestrial mammalian species diversity and biogeography changed during the Late Glacial and Holocene (16,000 years ago to present). Here we present a synthetic view of how these changes may have been manifested. Herbivores such as bison, camel, caribou, elk, mammoth, moose, horse, and saiga antelope once had widespread biogeographic distribution across Alaska. Several interrelated drivers behind the widespread mammalian shifts in diversity and ranges and extinction during the Late Glacial and into the Holocene in interior Alaska have been hypothesized. These comprise, but are not limited to, climate change, changes in vegetation regimes, shifts in available moisture, decreases in plant growing seasons, increases in snow accumulation, and predator pressure (including human hunting).

The models we present are based on well-dated paleontological and archaeofaunal data-sets, well-defined records of changes in soil and sedimentation regimes, and vegetation reconstructions (pollen and macrofossils) from lake cores. As expected, environmental changes during the last 16,000 years across the diverse landscapes of the region, did not affect each species equally. Many species’ ranges diminished and several species became extinct, yet others survived and flourished into the later periods of the Holocene.

Cite this Record

Late Quaternary Landscape Change and Large Mammal Habitat Fragmentation in Interior Alaska. Joshua Reuther, Ben Potter, Charles Holmes, Julie Esdale, Jennifer Kielhofer. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403855)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -169.717; min lat: 42.553 ; max long: -122.607; max lat: 71.301 ;