Guano core evidence of palaeoenvironmental change and Woodland Indian inhabitance in Fern Cave, Alabama, USA, from the mid-Holocene to present

Research paper by Joshua W. Campbell, Matthew N. Waters, Fred Rich

Indexed on: 25 Jan '17Published on: 24 Jan '17Published in: Boreas


Bat guano cores have been used as a source of palaeoenvironmental information to aid in the reconstruction of past climates and vegetation. We collected a 104-cm-long (43 cm compacted) guano core from Fern Cave, Alabama, USA, that provided a c. 6000-year record of guano accumulation. Pollen, nutrients (C, N, P) and stable isotopes (δ13C, δ15N) were measured on the guano core with the objective of reconstructing the environmental history of the area from the mid-Holocene to present. Our data indicate that bats have utilized Fern Cave for at least 6000 years and that Woodland Indians also utilized the cave for a short period. A 3-cm charcoal layer was dated to 2720±30 cal. a BP and inferred to be Woodland Indian in origin from microscopic inspection and thickness. Pollen and geochemical data showed that bat diets changed in the late Holocene possibly linked to food supply and climate changes. These results demonstrate that guano cores are a useful tool of palaeoenvironmental reconstruction when other forms of palaeorecords do not exist and can add to local archaeological information.