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Pre-Settlement Forest

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In the pre-settlement forest, natural variation across sites and ongoing natural and human disturbance processes led to differences in age, density, size, and species of trees across a wide range of sites. Notice the large trees and large fallen trunks on the right in the diorama. Compare them with the smaller, younger trees, including species intolerant of shade such as paper birch and red cedar, on the left.

Factors controlling the pattern and dynamics of the landscape included:

  • Natural disturbance:
    • hurricanes
    • other wind storms
    • ice storms
    • pathogens (insects and disease)
    • fires ignited by lightning strikes
  • Variation in soils and water availability:
    • sandy, droughty soils; moister till soils; shallow soils with bedrock outcrops
    • flooding by beavers
    • annual fluctuations in the water table
  • Human activity:
    • clearings for Indian villages and fields
    • Indian burning of forests to improve hunting 
Time period: 
1700 A.D.