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Physical and historical determinants of the pre- and post-settlement forests of northwestern Pennsylvania  [2003]

Whitney, G.G. DeCant, J.P.

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Abstract
Our analysis of the early land survey records and more recent U.S. Forest Service inventory data documents the changing nature of northwestern Pennsylvania's forests following European settlement. Initially, the northern portion of the four-county study area was dominated by forests of Fagus grandifolia Ehrh. and Acer saccharum Marsh. associated with the richer, finer-textured soils of the rolling Glaciated Appalachian Plateau. Up to 80% of the region was cleared for farming in the 19th century. Marginal farmland was abandoned and reverted to forests in the 20th century. Fires and leached, nutrient-poor soils favored the dominance of Quercus spp. and Castanea dentata (Marsh.) Borkh. in the presettlement forests of the rugged Unglaciated Appalachian Plateaus to the south. The rough nature of the terrain discouraged the early clearance of the plateaus' forests. The advent of the petroleum industry and its insatiable demand for barrels in the 19th century, however, assured the selective removal of the larger (>20 in. (50 cm) DBH) Quercus alba L. from the region's woods. The increasing homogeneity of northwestern Pennsylvania's forests today is due to the sharp decline of the more distinctive indicator species and the rise of a number of opportunistic old-field or gap species, notably Prunus serotina Ehrh. and Acer rubrum L.
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Other subjects

  • forest trees
  • geomorphology
  • environmental factors
  • European settlement
  • Fagus grandifolia
  • opportunistic species
  • history
  • forests
  • Acer rubrum
  • Quercus alba
  • forest fires
  • land use
  • Acer saccharum
  • Glaciated Appalachian Plateau
  • forest history
  • pre-settlement forests
  • physiographic regions
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Other information

Language : English

Type : Journal Article

In AGRIS since : 2013

Volume : 33

Issue : 9

Start Page : 1683

End Page : 1697

All titles :

" Physical and historical determinants of the pre- and post-settlement forests of northwestern Pennsylvania "