PMID: 16593498Aug 1, 1984

Guatemalan forest synthesis after Pleistocene aridity

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
B W Leyden


Sediments from two lakes in the Peten Department, Guatemala, provide palynological evidence from Central America of late Pleistocene aridity and subsequent synthesis of mesic forests. Late Glacial vegetation consisted of marsh, savanna, and juniper scrub. An early Holocene temperate forest preceded a mesic tropical forest with Brosimum (ramon). Thus "primeval" rain forests of Guatemala are no older than 10,000 to 11,000 years and are considerably younger in the Peten due to Mayan disturbances. Among dated Neotropical sites, the Peten has the most mesic vegetation yet shown to have supplanted xeric vegetation present during the Pleistocene. The arid late Glacial-humid early Holocene transition appears to have been pantropical in the lowlands. The Peten was not a Pleistocene refugium for mesophytic taxa, as has been suggested. Thus genesis of extant rain forests in northern Central America and southern Mexico remains unexplained.


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