Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Donald G. Sullivan, Ph.D.


Carbon storage, Climate change, Paleoclimate, Peat, Rocky Mountains, Wetlands


As part of the ongoing investigation of mid-latitude fens in Colorado by University of Denver paleoenvironment researchers, research directed at examining the response of mid-latitude subalpine fens to past climatic events potentially analogous to modern anthropogenic climate change was undertaken. As part of this research, a 4.18 m sediment core was retrieved from Harbison Pond (2651 m elev) near Grand Lake, CO and a 3.12 m peat core was collected from Whiskey Fen (2792 m elev) in the Never Summer Range. Stratigraphic evidence indicates the kettle lake formed shortly after the Last Glacial Maximum, at least 16,201 cal yr BP and that peat began accumulating in Whiskey Fen 12,347 cal yr BP. The timing of the formation of this kettle lake provides new details towards the timing of glacial retreat after the Last Glacial Maximum. The recoverable pollen and microscopic charcoal records from Harbison Pond begin 8,804 cal yr BP and reveals that fire intensity and frequency was much greater in the early Holocene than present. Warmer and drier conditions than present during the Holocene Climatic Optimum decreased fire frequency likely due to a decrease in available fuel. Autochthonous production within Harbison Pond increased during this time, while peat stopped being produced in Whiskey Fen. About 2,000 yr BP, modern climate and vegetation conditions became established in the area.The amount of organic carbon storage in subalpine mid-latitude peatlands may be greatly underestimated by current national models, as Whiskey Fen and two other surveyed fens contained thousands of more tons of organic carbon than predicted. Projected anthropogenic climate change will have a larger impact on natural systems connected to mid-latitude subalpine fens than is currently being anticipated.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Ian Arthur Slayton

File size

138 p.

File format





Paleoclimate Science, Physical Geography, Climate Change

Included in

Geography Commons