Chris Larsen

Oak Openings in WNY in 1795

A map of the Western New York region showing oak openings.

Oak abundance, and open forests such as oak openings, in the Eastern US have declined over the past two centuries. This project investigates that by addressing two questions in Western New York with a focus on the area around Geneseo, NY: (1) Were environmental factors or Native American land-use practices responsible for high abundances of oak and oak openings? (2) Under what environmental and land-use conditions have oak and oak openings maintained or declined? Historical records will provide insight into landscape characteristics and land-use practices during late Native American (1790) and early Euro-American (1790-1850) settlement, and will be used to construct a land-use history. Statistical models will determine relations between past forest composition, environmental conditions, and Native American land-use. Modern tree species composition will be compared with environmental conditions and land-use histories to understand settings under which oak and oak openings persisted or declined.

This research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation, Assessing the Environmental and Human Drivers and Cultural Dimensions of Changes in Oak Forests of the Eastern U.S. (PI: David Robertson; co-PIs: Chris Larsen, Stephen Tulowiecld), Award #1660388.