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Native American influences on the forest composition of the Allegheny Plateau, northwest

Summary: Native American influences on the forest
composition of the Allegheny Plateau, northwest
Bryan A. Black, Charles M. Ruffner, and Marc D. Abrams
Abstract: We integrate witness tree distribution, Native American archaeological sites, and geological and topographic
variables to investigate the relationships between Native American populations and pre-European settlement forest types
on the Allegheny Plateau, northwest Pennsylvania. Detrended correspondence analysis of witness tree data separated
the presettlement forests into oak­hickory­chestnut and beech­hemlock­maple communities. Oak, hickory, and chestnut
forests were centered on Native American village sites. Using archaeological data, an index of Native American influ-
ence (NAI) was derived to reflect the intensity of Native American land use across the landscape. In a comparison
among species, mean NAI value of oak, hickory, and chestnut trees was significantly higher than that of beech, maple,
and hemlock. Logistic regression demonstrated that among geology type, landform, elevation, aspect, slope, and NAI,
NAI was by far the most significant predictor of oak, hickory, and chestnut distribution. Although cause and effect of
this relationship cannot be tested, we suggest that long-term Native American activity selected for the disturbance-
adapted oak, hickory, and chestnut. We contend that Native American agriculture, burning, and resource extraction
could have converted maple­beech­hemlock to oak­hickory­chestnut, or at least reinforced the dominance of this for-
est type.
Résumé : Les auteurs ont intégré la distribution des arbres témoins, les sites archéologiques autochtones et les varia-
bles géologiques et topographiques pour étudier les relations entre les populations autochtones et les types de forêt qui
existaient avant la colonisation par les européens sur le plateau de l'Allegheny, dans le nord-ouest de la Pennsylvanie.


Source: Abrams, Marc David - School of Forest Resources, Pennsylvania State University
Black, Bryan.- Hatfield Marine Science Center, Oregon State University


Collections: Environmental Sciences and Ecology