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Harvard Forest Data Archive


Long-term Dynamics of Vegetation and Environment in Central Massachusetts 1000-2000

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  • Lead: Janice Fuller, David Foster
  • Investigators:
  • Contact: Information Manager
  • Start date: 1000
  • End date: 2000
  • Status: completed
  • Location: North Central Massachusetts
  • Latitude: +42.4 to +42.7
  • Longitude: -72.5 to -71.6
  • Elevation:
  • Taxa: Acer (maple), Ambrosia (ragweed), Betula (birch), Carya (hickory), Castanea (chestnut), Fagus (beech), Quercus (oak), Rumex (sorrel), Tsuga (hemlock)
  • Release date: 2000
  • Revisions:
  • EML file: knb-lter-hfr.27.18
  • DOI: digital object identifier
  • EDI: data package
  • DataONE: data package
  • Related links:
  • Study type: paleological
  • Research topic: historical and retrospective studies; regional studies
  • LTER core area: disturbance
  • Keywords: human disturbance, lakes, paleoecology, pollen, vegetation dynamics
  • Abstract:

    Historical and ecological data from north-central Massachusetts suggest that widespread and intensive human disturbance after European settlement led to a shift in forest composition and obscured regional patterns of species abundance. A paleoecological approach was required to place recent forest dynamics in a long-term context. Pollen and charcoal data from 11 small lakes in north-central Massachusetts were used to reconstruct local vegetation dynamics and fire histories across the region over the past 1000 years. The sites are located across an environmental gradient. Paleoecological data indicate that prior to European settlement, there was regional variation in forest composition corresponding to differences in climate, substrate, and fire regime. Oak, chestnut and hickory were abundant at low elevations, whereas hemlock, beech, sugar maple, and yellow birch were common at high elevations. Fire appears to have been more frequent and/or intense at lower elevations, maintaining high abundances of oak, and archaeological data suggest Native American populations were greater in these areas. A change in forest composition at higher elevations, around 550 years before present, may be related to the Little Ice Age (a period of variable climate), fire, and/or activity by Native Americans, and led to regional convergence in forest composition. After European settlement, forest composition changed markedly in response to human disturbance and there was a sharp increase in rates of vegetation change. Regional patterns were obscured further, leading to homogenization of broad-scale forest composition. There is no indication from the pollen data that forests are returning to pre-European settlement forest composition, and rates of vegetation change remain high, reflecting continuing disturbance to the landscape, despite regional reforestation.

  • Methods:

    Paleoecological methods were used to reconstruct the vegetation, fire and land-use history.

  • Use:

    This dataset is released to the public under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (No Rights Reserved). Please keep the dataset creators informed of any plans to use the dataset. Consultation with the original investigators is strongly encouraged. Publications and data products that make use of the dataset should include proper acknowledgement.

  • Citation:

    Fuller J, Foster D. 2000. Long-term Dynamics of Vegetation and Environment in Central Massachusetts 1000-2000. Harvard Forest Data Archive: HF027 (v.18). Environmental Data Initiative:

Detailed Metadata

hf027-01: site descriptions

  1. site: site name
  2. lat: latitude (unit: meter / missing value: NA)
  3. long: longitude (unit: meter / missing value: NA)
  4. elev: elevation (unit: meter / missing value: NA)
  5. dating information
  6. pollen.analyst: name of pollen analyst

hf027-02: dating information

  1. pond: site name
  2. depth: core depth (unit: centimeter / missing value: NA)
  3. age: age in years bp (unit: number / missing value: NA)
  4. error: standard error in years (unit: number / missing value: NA)
  5. dating.method: dating method

hf027-03: pollen

  1. site: site code
    • AP: Aino Pond
    • DFP: Dead Frog Pond
    • GP: Green Pond
    • LKP: Lake Pleasant
    • LLP: Lily Pond
    • LMP: Little Mirror Pond
    • LTP: Little Pond
    • OP: Otter Pond
    • QP: Quag Pond
    • SVP: Silver Pond
    • SNP: Snake Pond
  2. depth: core depth (unit: centimeter / missing value: NA)
  3. taxa: taxa name
  4. species.per: species percentages based on the sum of terrestrial pollen and spores (unit: dimensionless / missing value: NA)
  5. trees.shrubs: trees and shrubs (unit: dimensionless / missing value: NA)
  6. herbs: herbs (unit: dimensionless / missing value: NA)
  7. pt.spores: pteridophyte spores (unit: dimensionless / missing value: NA)
  8. aquatics: aquatics (unit: dimensionless / missing value: NA)
  9. indet: indeterminables and unknown grains (unit: dimensionless / missing value: NA)
  10. sum.terr: sum of terrestrial pollen and spores (unit: dimensionless / missing value: NA)
  11. ar: aR (unit: dimensionless / missing value: NA)
  12. sum.taxa: sum of all taxa (unit: dimensionless / missing value: NA)

hf027-04: site map

  • Compression: none
  • Format: gif
  • Type: image