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Pre-Settlement Forest

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In the pre-settlement forest, where Nipmuck people lived before European colonization, natural variation across sites and ongoing natural and human disturbance processes led to differences in age, density, size, and species of trees. Notice the large trees and large fallen trunks on the right side of 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 villages and fields
    • burning of forests to improve hunting
Time period: 
1700 A.D.