Vegetation-site relationships of witness trees (1780-1856) in the presettlement forests of eastern West Virginia

Marc D. Abrams, Deanna M. McCay

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Witness tree data from 1780-1856 for the Monongahela National Forest in eastern West Virginia were analyzed with respect to physiographic unit (Ridge and Valley versus Allegheny Mountains) and landform, and compared with present-day forest composition. Contingency table analysis and standardized residuals were used to quantify the preference or avoidance of common tree species with various landforms. Pre-European settlement forests in the Ridge and Valley were dominated by mixed oak (Quercus alba L., Quercus prinus L., Quercus velutina Lam. and Quercus rubra L.), Pinus spp., Castanea dentata (Marsh.) Borkh., and Carya on ridge sites and Q. alba, Acer saccharum Marsh., Pinus, Tilia americana L., and Tsuga canadensis (L.) Carr. on valley floors. The original forests in the Allegheny Mountains were dominated by Fagus grandifolia Ehrh., T. canadensis, A. saccharum, Acer rubrum L., Betula spp., and Pinus, with predominantly Fagus-Tsuga-Pinus forests on mountain tops and Tsuga-Acer-Betula forests on valley floors. Compared with the presettlement era, present-day forests on both physiographic units lack overstory C. dentata and have decreased Pinus and (or) Q. alba. Species that have increased substantially following Euro-American settlement include Q. prinus, Q. rubra, Quercus coccinea Muenchh., and A. rubrum in the Ridge and Valley and Prunus serotina Ehrh., A. rubrum, and Betula spp. in the Allegheny Mountains. These dramatic changes in forest composition were attributed to the chestnut blight (caused by Endothia parasitica (Murrill) P.J. Anderson & H.W. Anderson), widespread logging, intensive wildfires, and more recently, fire exclusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-224
Number of pages8
JournalCanadian Journal of Forest Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Forestry
  • Ecology


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