Native American influences on the forest composition of the Allegheny Plateau, northwest Pennsylvania
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Bryan A. Black; C. M. Ruffner; M. D. Abrams
Publication Year: 2006

Cataloging Information

  • Acer saccharum
  • agriculture
  • archaeological sites
  • Betula
  • Canada
  • Castanea dentata
  • coniferous forests
  • distribution
  • disturbance
  • elevation
  • Fagus grandifolia
  • forest management
  • forest types
  • geology
  • hardwood forests
  • histories
  • land use
  • Native Americans
  • Pennsylvania
  • Pinus strobus
  • population density
  • presettlement vegetation
  • Quercus
  • sloping terrain
  • trees
  • Tsuga canadensis
  • witness trees
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: June 1, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 45577
Tall Timbers Record Number: 21118
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Journals-C
TTRS Abstract Status: Okay, Fair use, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


We integrate witness tree distribution, Native American archaeological sites, and geological and topographic variables to investigate the relationships between Native American populations and pre-European settlement forest types on the Allegheny Plateau, northwest Pennsylvania. Detrended correspondence analysis of witness tree data separated the presettlement forests into oak-hickory-chestnut and beech-hemlock-maple communities. Oak, hickory, and chestnut forests were centered on Native American village sites. Using archaeological data, an index of Native American influence (NAI) was derived to reflect the intensity of Native American land use across the landscape. In a comparison among species, mean NAI value of oak, hickory, and chestnut trees was significantly higher than that of beech, maple, and hemlock. Logistic regression demonstrated that among geology type, landform, elevation, aspect, slope, and NAI, NAI was by far the most significant predictor of oak, hickory, and chestnut distribution. Although cause and effect of this relationship cannot be tested, we suggest that long-term Native American activity selected for the disturbance-adapted oak, hickory, and chestnut. We contend that Native American agriculture, burning, and resource extraction could have converted maple-beech-hemlock to oak-hickory-chestnut, or at least reinforced the dominance of this forest type. © 2006 National Research Council of Canada, NRC Research Press. Abstract reproduced by permission.

Online Link(s):
Black, B. A., C. M. Ruffner, and M. D. Abrams. 2006. Native American influences on the forest composition of the Allegheny Plateau, northwest Pennsylvania. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, v. 36, no. 5, p. 1266-1275. 10.1139/X06-027.