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Harvard Forest Data Archive

HF073

Long-Term Dynamics of Oak and Chestnut in Central Massachusetts from 3500 BP to Present

Related Publications

Data

Overview

  • Lead: David Foster, David Orwig
  • Investigators: Sylvia Barry, Susan Clayden, Brian Hall
  • Contact: David Foster
  • Start date: -1500
  • End date: 2000
  • Status: completed
  • Location: Quabbin Reservoir
  • Latitude: +42.42
  • Longitude: -72.35
  • Elevation:
  • Taxa: Acer rubrum (red maple), Betula (birch), Castanea (chestnut), Nyssa (black gum), Pinus strobus (white pine), Quercus alba (white oak), Quercus rubra (red oak), Tsuga canadensis (hemlock)
  • Release date: 2003
  • Revisions:
  • EML file: knb-lter-hfr.73.17
  • DOI: digital object identifier
  • Related links:
  • Study type: paleological
  • Research topic: historical and retrospective studies; physiological ecology, population dynamics and species interactions
  • LTER core area: disturbance
  • Keywords: climate change, dendrochronology, fires, land use, paleoecology, pollen
  • Abstract:

    Despite decades of study we have limited insights into the nature of the pre-European landscape of the northeastern USA and the forces and changes that shaped modern forest patterns. Information on such long-term forest dynamics would provide critical insights into the relationships among environmental change, land-use history and biotic responses and is greatly needed for conservation planning. To address these issues we used modern, historical, and paleoecological approaches to reconstruct the 3500-year history of a New England upland region dominated by oak and (formerly) chestnut forests and to interpret the interactions among climate change, natural and human disturbance, and site factors in controlling vegetation patterns and dynamics at different spatial scales.

    The results indicate that stand, landscape and regional forest dynamics were most strongly driven by climate, notably an apparent cooling and increase in moisture availability c. 1500 yr BP, and European land-use activities commencing 260 yr BP. However, the abundance of oak and chestnut (fire-tolerant, sprouting species) and the distribution of hemlock (fire-intolerant) at a stand to landscape scale were also influenced by fire, which, in turn, varied with climate and human activity. Despite, or perhaps as a consequence of ongoing disturbance by fire and presumably windstorms in this hurricane-prone region, the pre-European period was marked by two 1000+ year periods of remarkably stable forest composition, separated by an abrupt compositional shift. In contrast, over the past 260 years the vegetation has changed rather continuously in response to human activity, producing stand, landscape and regional patterns that are novel as well as recent in origin.

    Chestnut was a major component of some pre-European landscapes in New England, in part because of occasional fire, and that cultural and physical factors have interacted over millennia to control vegetation patterns and dynamics. Our analyses also suggest that the composition of low diversity forests can be remarkably stable over millennia. The range of ecological, cultural and management insights afforded by this study underscores the fundamental utility of very long-term research in science and policy development.

  • Methods:

    Paleoecological methods were used to reconstruct the vegetation, fire and land-use history of the local and subregional vegetation from the two basins and to place these in the context of regional information on vegetation and climate change based on other published data. Historical information including maps, archaeological and census data, and vegetation information were gathered for the landscape and areas surrounding the coring sites. Vegetation sampling in transects adjacent to the swamp coring area included tree cores for dendrochronological reconstructions.

  • Use:

    This dataset is released to the public under Creative Commons license CC BY (Attribution). Please keep the designated contact person informed of any plans to use the dataset. Consultation or collaboration with the original investigators is strongly encouraged. Publications and data products that make use of the dataset must include proper acknowledgement.

  • Citation:

    Foster D, Orwig D. 2003. Long-Term Dynamics of Oak and Chestnut in Central Massachusetts from 3500 BP to Present. Harvard Forest Data Archive: HF073.

Detailed Metadata

hf073-01: loss on ignition

  1. site: site name
    • chem: Chamberlain - Hemlock
    • coak: Chamberlain - Oak
    • lily: Lily
  2. depth: depth of sample in centimeters in the sediment column (unit: centimeter / missing value: NA)
  3. organic.per: percent organic carbon as determined by loss-on-ignition method (unit: dimensionless / missing value: NA)

hf073-02: pollen - Chamberlain Hemlock/Chamberlain Oak

  1. site: site name
    • chem: Chamberlain Hemlock
    • coak: Chamberlain Oak
  2. depth: depth of sample in centimeters in the sediment column (unit: centimeter / missing value: NA)
  3. taxa: taxa name
  4. percent: percentage of taxa identified in pollen assemblage based on an upland sum of trees, shrubs, herbs and ferns (unit: dimensionless / missing value: NA)

hf073-03: pollen - Lily

  1. site: site name
    • lily: Lily
  2. depth: depth of sample in centimeters in the sediment column (unit: centimeter / missing value: NA)
  3. taxa: taxa name
  4. count: number of pollen grains of individual taxa identified (unit: number / missing value: NA)

hf073-04: age model - Lily

  1. site: site name
    • lily: Lily
  2. depth: depth of sample in centimeters in the sediment column (unit: centimeter / missing value: NA)
  3. age: age in years before present (years before 1950) (unit: number / missing value: NA)
  4. analysis: analysis by which age was determined
    • AMS: Accelerated mass. Spectrometry radiocarbon analysis on lacustrine organic matter
  5. error: error in radiocarbon date reported by lab (± years) (unit: number / missing value: NA)
  6. cal.ybp: calibrated radiocarbon date, in years before 1950, determined by Calib 4.0
  7. status: status
    • rejected: indicates radiocarbon date was not used in age-depth model due to possible carbon contamination
  8. year.cored: year (AD) sediment core was taken