US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Quaternary International 67 (2000) 61-74.


Accelerator mass spectrometry and conventional radiocarbon age determinations of organic matter from paleosols indicate that the Brandon Sand Hills area of southern Manitoba has been subjected to recurrent intervals of eolian activity in the past 5000 years. Although precise regional correlations are precluded by dating uncertainties, periods of most notable paleosol development occurred around 2300 to 2000, 1400 to 1000, and 600 to 500 cal yr BP with eolian activity occurring before and after each of these periods. Episodes of eolian activity may correspond to periods of regional drought, whereas paleosols mark periods of increased moisture availability and stabilization by vegetation. The geochemistry of the eolian sands, paleosols and source sediments indicates that partial leaching of carbonates occurs from pedogenesis during humid climatic phases, and that this is probably the primary mechanism of carbonate depletion of eolian sands in this area. Recent trends in sand dune activity from historic aerial photography and early explorers' accounts indicate that the few active dunes that presently exist have stabilized at a rate of 10}20% per decade, despite several severe droughts in the 20th century. This may be attributed to pre-settlement droughts that were more severe than those in historic times although regional dune stabilization may also be related, in part, to the spread of forest cover in the past few hundred years.