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Abstract

Environmental indicators from lake sediments provide excellent opportunities to improve understanding of forest disturbance processes and corresponding changes in forest composition. Our research provides a methodology for assessing recent, historic, and prehistoric disturbances using lacustrine sediment records. We collected sediment cores from Blue Lake, a small subalpine lake on the Wasatch Plateau in central Utah. These cores record environmental changes caused by both spruce beetle (Dendroctonus rufipennis Kirby) and human (logging and livestock grazing) modification. We observed deteriorated insect remains in the lake sediments. These remains correspond temporally with a historic spruce beetle outbreak, though alkaline conditions in the lake water may have inhibited preservation of bark beetle remains. Pollen data reveal that despite the unprecedented level of mortality among Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii Parry ex Engelm.) resulting from the spruce beetle epidemic, logging activities subsequent to Euro-American settlement appear to be the most severe disturbance to the Blue Lake watershed over the last 750 years.

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