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Re-examination of an 85-year-old Peat Core from Bacon’s Swamp Reveals New Understanding of the Natural History of Indiana’s Southernmost “Sphagnum bog”

Anthony L. Swinehart1,* and Carlyn M. Hubbard1

1Department of Biology, Hillsdale College, MI 49242. *Corresponding author.

Northeastern Naturalist, Volume 30, Issue 2 (2023): 161–185

Historic Bacon’s Swamp in Indianapolis is commonly regarded as the southernmost Sphagnum-dominated peatland in Indiana. Although pollen analyses have been published, no previous macrofossil investigations have been conducted. Recent attempts to retrieve a sediment core to recover macrofossils and study the palaeoecology of historic Bacon’s Swamp failed due to the presence of extensive and deep gravel fill overlaying the remaining wetland sediments. Discovery of core samples collected for pollen analysis in 1936, before extensive dredging and filling of the peatland, provided an unusual opportunity to recover macrofossils. Macrofossils were remarkably well-preserved, despite having been dried for nearly 85 years. Those identified in this study indicate that the ecological succession of Bacon’s Swamp was markedly different than previously reported. Changes in local or regional hydrology are evident and may have controlled the onset of developmental stages. Contrary to a previous published account, Sphagnum appears to have been a relatively recent pioneer in Bacon’s Swamp rather than a long-term component of the flora.

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