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Reforested landscapes in New England

Thoreau coined the term ``succession'' as used in ecology to describe the change in vegetation following natural disturbance. His first talk on the subject, ``The succession of forest trees,'' was presented to the Middlesex Agricultural Society, and it describes well the process of old-field succession.

Forest maps constructed by Charles Sprague Sargent and George Nichols at the turn of the century identified much of New England as part of the ``Northern Pine'' region (Figure 2), but
Extensive white pine forests were a transient phenomenon generated by cultural and natural history ... For many stands of pine and other pioneers, we can anticipate that with time and natural development the vegetation will become something very different ... The particular forest changes that have occurred in the New England landscape over the last century were actually a historical accident .... [6], p. 139.
And the effects of past land uses can linger for a long time. In spite of more than a century of regrowth, forest soils in New England still show a distinct plow horizon (Figure 3). Moreover, the effects of past land use on vegetation are detectable more than a century after it has been released from agricultural use (Figure 4)

Figure 2: One of Sargent's forest maps (from [10]).
\resizebox{!}{8cm}{\includegraphics{white-pine-region.eps}}

Figure 3: Land use history and soil horizons in New England. The horizon on the left shows the effects of plowing more than a century after plowing stopped (from [4]).
\resizebox{\textwidth}{!}{\includegraphics{foster-etal-soil.eps}}

Figure 4: Vegetation composition as a function of land use history at two sites in southern New England (from [4]).
\resizebox{\textwidth}{!}{\includegraphics{foster-etal-vegetation.eps}}


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Next: Old growth forest in Up: Thoreau's country: landscape change Previous: Thoreau's country: landscape change
Kent Holsinger 2013-10-05