Historic and Holocene environmental change in the San Antonio Creek Basin, mid-coastal California

R. Scott Anderson, Ana Ejarque, Johnathan Rice, Susan J. Smith, Clayton G. Lebow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Using a combination of pollen, non-pollen palynomorphs (NPPs) and charcoal particle stratigraphies from sediment cores from two sites, along with historical records, we reconstructed paleoenvironmental change in mid-coastal California. The San Antonio Creek section contains a discontinuous, Holocene-length record, while Mod Pond includes a continuous late Holocene record. Together the records allow for interpretation of most of the present interglacial. The longer record documents coastal sage scrub and chaparral dominated by woodland elements early in the Holocene to about 9000. yr ago, a potential decline in woodland communities with drying conditions during the middle Holocene to about 4800. yr ago, and an expansion of coastal sage scrub with grassland during the late Holocene. Evidence for climatic fluctuations during the last 1000. yr at Mod Pond is equivocal, suggesting that the Medieval Climate Anomaly-Little Ice Age had modest impact on the Mod Pond environment. However, evidence of significant environmental change associated with cultural transitions in the 18th-19th centuries is stark. Introduction of non-native plants, establishment of cattle and sheep grazing, missionization of the native population, changes in burning practices during the Spanish period and enhanced cropping activities during North American settlement worked together to substantially modify the mid-California coastal landscape in about a century's time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-286
Number of pages14
JournalQuaternary Research (United States)
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015


  • California
  • Fire history
  • Holocene vegetation change
  • Human impact
  • Non-pollen palynomorphs
  • Pollen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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