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Modeling the Pre-Euroamerican Landscape with Government Land Office Surveys and Geostatistics

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Forested areas in the United States have been altered since the time of European settlement. There is increasing interest in comparing present day vegetation with that of the Pre-Euroamerican era to understand what changes have occurred in some of our more outstanding natural areas. Studies have been conducted using Government Land Office (GLO) notes to understand historic vegetation surveys, but past studies focused on species present/absent lists. The GLO surveys included information about tree species, tree diameter and other physical features. This study used indicator kriging to interpolate the probability of tree species on the landscape using the GLO data from 62 townships. Once continuous probability models were developed, vegetation spatial patterns were analyzed throughout the sub-basin. This technique provided insight into what the vegetation pattern (spatially) was like prior to Euroamerican settlement within the Buffalo River sub-basin. It provided the base information necessary to quantify vegetation change and the spatial extent of that change. Based on this research it appears that post-Euroamerican fire suppression and agricultural practices with other human activities have been major contributors to change. Eastern Redcedar (Juniperious virginiana) and hickory (Carya sp.) have increased, while oak species (Quercus sp.) have decreased. Additionally 19% of the sub-basin has changed to non-forest.
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Keywords: GLO; geostatistics; indicator kriging; pre-Euroamerican landscape; probability maps

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Spatial Analysis Laboratory University of Arkansas at Monticello 2: Bureau of Land Management Portland, Oregon

Publication date: August 1, 2008

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