From the University of Buffalo: Study explores how past Native American settlement modified WNY forests.
A new study by University at Buffalo geographers explores how humans altered the arboreal make-up of Western New York forests before European settlers arrived in large numbers.
The research looked at land survey data from around 1799-1814, and used this information to model which tree species were present in different areas of Chautauqua County, New York, at that time.
The analysis placed hickory, chestnut and oak trees in larger-than-expected numbers near the historical sites of Native American villages, said co-author Steve Tulowiecki, who conducted the research as a geography PhD candidate at the University at Buffalo and is now an adjunct lecturer of geography at SUNY Geneseo. This finding is important because these species produce edible nuts, and are also more likely than many other trees to survive fires.
“Our results contribute to the conversation about how natural or humanized the landscape of America was when Europeans first arrived,” Tulowiecki said. “Our society has competing views about this: On one hand, there is the argument that it was a wilderness relatively untouched by man. Recently, we’ve had this perspective challenged, with some saying that the landscape was dramatically altered, particularly through burning and other clearance practices.” [continue]