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Historical and Retrospective Studies
Reconstructive studies that use paleoecological, dendroecological, historical, and other approaches are used to help interpret long-term forest and ecosystem dynamics and generate valuable insight for ecologists, conservationists, and foresters. The historical context provided by these studies reveals a long-term pattern of environmental fluctuations, natural disturbance processes, and subtle, often indirect, human impacts that have shaped the structure and function of forests for centuries.
Harvard Forest has a rich history of retrospective studies which have led to the development of many new approaches to historical ecology. The emphasis on the past continues today, as nearly every field study conducted by researchers at the Forest incorporates a historical component which can be used to evaluate current conditions and identify the magnitude and direction of changes that have occurred over time. Through these historical studies we are able to extend the timeframe of our research and use the collective historical and ecological insights to provide guidelines and a framework on which to base successful conservation, management, and policy initiatives.