Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Northeastern US forests transformed by human activity over 400 years

Date:
September 4, 2013
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
Forests in the northeastern US have been radically transformed over the last four centuries by human activity, and their relationship with climate factors like rainfall weakened.

Human activity has transformed Northeastern US forests over 400 years. This photo shows the forest cover in Slab City in 1890.
Credit: Harvard Forest Archives, Photographer unknown, Creative Commons Attribution License

Forests in the northeastern US have been radically transformed over the last four centuries by human activity, and their relationship with climate factors like rainfall weakened, according to research published September 4 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Jonathan Thompson and colleagues from the Smithsonian Institution.

Though the land use history of the northeastern United States is well documented, its ecological consequences remain poorly understood. Based on more than 300,000 references to individual trees within colonial-era property records, the researchers found that logging, agriculture and natural reforestation have changed forest composition across 9 states, ranging from Maine to Pennsylvania. While most varieties of trees persist, modern forests are distinct from those in pre-colonial times.

Beech, oak, hemlock and spruce are less abundant, with the sharpest decrease seen in beech proportions in Vermont, western Massachusetts, and northern Pennsylvania. Once forming an average of 22 percent of pre-colonial forests, only about 7 percent of forests now are composed of beech. Fir, cherry and maple trees increased in abundance, with maples experiencing the highest absolute change in proportions from 11 percent in the past to 31 percent in modern forests.

The authors observe that despite these changes and opportunities for species invasion or loss, the varieties of trees in modern forests are remarkably similar to pre-colonial forests. The modern forest is more homogenous and less structured by changes in local climate. Thompson elaborates, "If you only looked at a list of tree species, you'd have the impression that Northeast forests haven't changed. But once you start mapping the trees and counting them up, a very different picture emerges."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jonathan R. Thompson, Dunbar N. Carpenter, Charles V. Cogbill, David R. Foster. Four Centuries of Change in Northeastern United States Forests. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (9): e72540 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0072540

Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "Northeastern US forests transformed by human activity over 400 years." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130904204131.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2013, September 4). Northeastern US forests transformed by human activity over 400 years. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130904204131.htm
Public Library of Science. "Northeastern US forests transformed by human activity over 400 years." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130904204131.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

AP (July 28, 2014) AP Investigation: As the Obama administration weans the country off dirty fuels, energy companies are ramping-up overseas coal exports at a heavy price. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

More Coverage


400-Year Study Finds Northeast Forests Resilient, Changing

Sep. 5, 2013 A new study reveals how much -- and how little -- Northeastern forests have changed after centuries of intensive land ... read more
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins