Long-term human disturbance of an urban park forest, New York City

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Development of an urban park forest, the Turtle Pond Watershed, Alley Park, Queens, New York, was analyzed from historical, vegetation, and pollen records. After 1800, the forest began to develop as a hickory (Carya spp. Nutt.) dominated stand following release of the land from agricultural use. Pollen and sediment analysis of a section from the bog in Turtle Pond showed that before 1900, residential development introduced pine (Pinus spp. L.) to the area, reduced the hickory population, and caused the Pond to change from bog to fen conditions. From 1908 to 1912, the hickory bark beetle reduced hickory and chestnut blight killed off American chestnut (Castanea dentata (Marsh.) Borkh.). Although the area containing the Watershed forest was incorporated into Alley Park in 1927, private structures were not removed until 1937. Forest canopy inventory data from 1936 showed canopy gaps left open by the losses of American chestnut and hickory trees permitted flowering dogwood (Cornus florida L.) to become the forest dominant. Comparison of the 1936 data with an inventory of the forested Watershed in 1987 indicated the flowering dogwood was decimated in the intervening years and the open growing space was occupied by maple (Acer spp. L.), birch (Betula spp. L.), American beech (Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.), sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua L.), black gum (Nyssa sylvatica Marsh.), black cherry (Prunus serotina Ehrh.), and oak (Quercus spp. L.). The pollen record indicates that stresses of recreational use and abuse in the Watershed forest since 1973 have negatively affected reproduction in maple, birch, and sweet gum. The history of human disturbance provides information to guide recreation of past forest types and to increase diversity through the selection of hardy species to plant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-309
Number of pages17
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jun 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Forestry
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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