Abstract

Nonglacial deposits of Middle Wisconsin age are being discovered with increased frequency across a broad region of southern Ontario, Canada, and provide strong evidence for a time of significant ice withdrawal from the lower Great Lakes region. With each new discovery, a refined understanding of regional climatic and paleoecological environments is emerging. In this paper, we present the results of a sedimentological and paleoecological study of a subtill organic deposit in Zorra Township, southwestern Ontario. The organic deposit, which lies beneath Nissouri Phase Catfish Creek Till (Late Wisconsin), has been dated by accelerator mass spectrometry at between 50.5 and 42.9 14C ka BP. The organic remains are contained within slack water pond deposits infilling a channel incised into till either of Early Wisconsin or Illinoian age. The fossil assemblage appears to be strongly influenced by taphonomic processes, including degradation due to oxidation, bacterial and fungal decay, and glacial overriding. Reworking and (or) recycling and selective sorting as well as long-distance transport has also influenced the composition of the fossil assemblage preserved. Nonetheless, meaningful paleoecological information is still obtained from this record. Collectively, the pollen and plant macrofossils indicate a boreal-type pine–spruce forest with temperatures cooler than present. The absence of arctic tundra plants, as are found in many other deposits of similar age in the lower Great Lakes basin, is notable. A pond or wetland inhabited by shoreline herbs, shrubs, and trees was present at or proximal to the site. The freshwater mollusc and ostracode assemblages are consistent with a shallow water habitat with dense submerged vegetation. The terrestrial mollusc assemblage suggests a taiga or transitional taiga–tundra fauna. Together, these fossil groups provide one of the most comprehensive environmental reconstructions of Middle Wisconsin time (oxygen isotope stage 3 or OIS3) in southern Ontario and serve to build on the ever-increasing database of paleoecological information accumulating for this episode of the late Quaternary.

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