Native American and Colonial land-use inferred using tree-rings from trunks and branches, Geneseo, New York

Authors: Chris Larsen*, University At Buffalo, Stephen Tulowiecki, SUNY Geneseo, David Robertson, SUNY Geneseo
Topics: Biogeography, Land Use and Land Cover Change, Indigenous Peoples
Keywords: dendrochronology, forest, GIS, historical geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Bonaparte, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Forests around Geneseo, New York, are generally either open-forest types with trees wide in canopy and diameter, or closed-forest types with trees narrow in canopy and diameter. Locals believe the open forests are legacies of Colonial land-use practices designed to emulate English countryside, and the closed forests are remnant woodlots or regrowth on abandoned Colonial agricultural land. In contrast, archival data suggests that open forests existed around Geneseo in the late-1700s due to Native American land-use. We used tree-ring records to evaluate land-use histories of both types of forests. Tree-ring records were obtained as sawed sections salvaged from recently fallen or cut trees, photographs from archival samples, and tree cores from living trees. Open-grown trees had trunk diameters of 1-2 meters that were typically hollow, though their branches were sound (non-rotten). For example, while three hollow trees had only 17-30 cm of sound wood with 68-74 annual rings, their branches had 157-166 annual rings. Results show that trunks and branches typically displayed similar ring-width patterns; in one open-grown tree, the trunk and a branch both indicated closed-growth for 150 years followed by open-growth for 100 years. In general, most currently open-grown trees began growing in the mid-1700s as closed-growth. While many of the currently closed-grown trees established after the mid-1800s, the oldest tree records are of closed grown trees established in the late-1600s. Results suggest that open-grown trees are legacies of both Native American and Colonial land-use practices, and closed-grown trees originated during both Native American and Colonial land tenure.

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