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Title: European settlement-era vegetation of the Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia
Author: Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa A.; Strager, Michael P.
Publication: Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-GTR-101. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 39 p.
Key Words: 2012
Abstract: Forest restoration would be greatly helped by understanding just what forests looked like a century or more ago. One source of information on early forests is found in old deeds or surveys, where boundary corners were described by noting nearby trees known as witness trees. This paper describes the creation and analysis of a database of witness trees from original metes and bounds surveys of what became the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. We include an estimate of positional error from the conversion of paper maps to digital format. The final database contains 15,589 corners and 22,328 trees of 49 species from deeds dating from 1752 to 1899. White oak was the most frequent witness tree, followed by sugar maple, American beech, and American chestnut, and distribution patterns were recognizable across the study area. In early forests of the study area, magnolia, sugar maple, and black cherry were found on high-elevation ridges. Red spruce, hemlock, birch, and American beech were found on high-elevation toe slopes. Basswood was found in high-elevation coves, and red oak was associated with bench landforms at high elevations. At moderate elevations American chestnut and chestnut oak were associated with ridges, white pine and yellow pine occurred on benches, and an unknown species called spruce-pine was found on valley landforms. Blackgum was associated with toe slopes on low elevations, and black walnut was found on low-elevation benches. Low-elevation valleys contained white oak, elm, and sycamore. An important finding from this analysis is that some associations between species and environmental variables differed based on the ecological setting. Indicator kriging, using presence-absence data, resulted in probability of occurrence maps for selected species. We estimate that white oak covered 26 percent of the study area, sugar maple 19 percent, American chestnut 3 percent, and red spruce 2 percent.
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