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November 1999


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Thu, 18 Nov 1999 18:19:19 -0500
Peter Kalamarides <[log in to unmask]>
E. coli Genetic Stock Center, Yale University
"A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
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> >Am I to read this right.  The amount of Forest Land is increasing in NYS?
> >
> >Jim Maguire
> >[log in to unmask]

Here are some references to specific studies of reforestation in York State
during the last century.  While they deal with Central New York they should
give some idea of the general pattern.

Thanks to Dr. Sana Gardescu of Cornell University for digging these up.


(n.b. 1. we used 1900 as an arbitrary date, since it is unclear from the
agricultural census data which decade of the late 1800s was the actual peak
in clearing, and the first aerial photos in this area are from 1936-1938.
  2. our definition of "forest" in 1938 and 1980 includes forested
woodlots, swamps, and also successional old fields with abundant emergent
trees that were not yet closed canopy stands)

Smith, B. E., P. L. Marks, & S. Gardescu.  1993.  Two hundred years of
forest cover changes in Tompkins County, New York.  Bulletin of the Torrey
Botanical Club 120: 229-247.
ABSTRACT:   The amount of land in forest within Tompkins County from the
time of European settlement (1790) to the present was determined from land
survey records, aerial photographs, and field reconnaissance.  Forest cover
in Tompkins County dropped from almost 100% in 1790 to 19% by 1900, then
increased to 28% by 1938 and over 50% in 1980.  Thus over half of the
forest in Tompkins County today is post-agricultural.
The number, size, shape, and distribution of forest stands within the
landscape changed during a century of conversion of agricultural to
forested lands.  From 1900 to 1980, there was more forest in the southern
part of the county, where the topography is hillier and soils are more
acidic.  For a portion of the county with extensive clearing for
agriculture, the Ludlowville quadrangle, we mapped the outline of all
forest stands present in 1900, 1938, and 1980.  Post-agricultural forest
developed predominantly on the steeper lakeside and streamside slopes
rather than on the flatter uplands.  Throughout the period 1900-1980 the
majority of the forest stands were quite small, <10 ha in area.  The
distance from random points in forest to the nearest edge of the stand was
often less than 50 m, except for some extensive stands on the slopes in
1980.  The development of forest on former agricultural lands has resulted
in the coalescence of stands, and the degree of fragmentation and isolation
of forest stands in the Ludlowville quadrangle of Tompkins County is much
reduced today compared to 1900.


(n.b. forest "islands" here means stands separated by open land)

Nyland, R.D., W.C. Zipperer and D.B. Hill.  1986.  The development of
forest islands in exurban central New York State.  Landscape & Urban
Planning 13:111-123.
Onondaga County in central New York State was extensively cleared for
agricultural use, so that by 1930 only 8% of the area maintained small and
highly fragmented forest islands.  Subsequent natural re-forestation in
exurban parts of the county increased the forest cover to 40% of the total
land area by 1980.  New stands formed around many residual forest islands,
and natural reforestation often consolidated two or more small parcels
previously separated by open fields.  At present, some forests cover as
much as 3000 ha each, and even-aged stands less than 50 years old make up
80% of the total forest area.  These stands are generally less diverse than
the residual islands which were never cleared for protracted agricultural
use.  Sugar maple and white ash predominate in most new forest stands on
the better-drained soils.  Red maple, elms and white ash are most common on
poorly-drained sites.  Overall, available data suggest the prevalence of
fairly homogeneous structural conditions across most forest stands.
Information from resource statistics also indicates that similar conditions
may dominate much of the forested area in rural southwestern New York State
and even greater areas of Northeastern United States.  Development of
existing seedling stands and new natural re-forestation should further
consolidate the forest cover and bring increased structural homogeneity
throughout the region.