Event Title

Pre-settlement Forests Reconstructed from 19th-C Land Survey Witness Trees

Presentation Abstract

The aboriginal forests of Puget Sound/Salish Sea immediately preceding Euro-American settlement have been characterized from 9,504 witness trees (randomly selected by surveying protocol and identified as to species, location, and diameter) from the original federal land surveys. Of 29 species, Douglas-fir, redcedar, and western hemlock comprised nearly 75% by abundance and (due to size) 90% by basal area; red alder and bigleaf maple were the main hardwoods. Species compositions ranged widely, from mostly Douglas-fir in dry areas to predominantly hemlock in the Cascade foothills. Region-wide average diameters of species were all under 2 ft, yet some specimens were 8-10 ft across. Of the region's ~1 billion trees, extrapolations from witness trees as samples indicate that ~5 million trees in the mid 1800s were „6 ft in diameter, mainly redcedar. Four forest types were identified: a large "base line" Lowlands Forest Zone and three distinct "outlier" types (a frequently disrupted Floodplains Forest Zone; a droughty Rainshadow Forest Zone; and a moist Foothills Forest Zone that uniquely permitted classic "climax" ecological succession). Appraisals of forest types against present day large-tree criteria for "oldgrowthness" indicate that essentially the entire region's forests qualified as old growth, even though sub-climax Douglas-fir predominated in the Rainshadow and Lowlands Zones, rather than hemlock, as in the Foothills Zone. Arguably, indications suggest that Lowland forests were 300-500 yrs old when the surveyecd, being much older in the Foothills Zone and somewhat younger in the Rainshadow Zone. Today only Floodplains forests resemble their aboriginal predecessors; after logging, all of the "last real forests" of the region have been replaced by urbanization, marginal agriculture, and second-growth woods that are mostly low-grade and alder-infested.

Session Title

Session S-09E: Marine, Freshwater and Terrestrial Species: Threats and Conservation

Conference Track

Species and Food Webs

Conference Name

Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference (2014 : Seattle, Wash.)

Document Type

Event

Start Date

1-5-2014 5:00 PM

End Date

1-5-2014 6:30 PM

Location

Room 6C

Contributing Repository

Digital content made available by University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

Rights

This resource is displayed for educational purposes only and may be subject to U.S. and international copyright laws. For more information about rights or obtaining copies of this resource, please contact University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225-9103, USA (360-650-7534; heritage.resources@wwu.edu) and refer to the collection name and identifier. Any materials cited must be attributed to the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference Records, University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

Type

Text

Language

English

Format

application/pdf

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May 1st, 5:00 PM May 1st, 6:30 PM

Pre-settlement Forests Reconstructed from 19th-C Land Survey Witness Trees

Room 6C

The aboriginal forests of Puget Sound/Salish Sea immediately preceding Euro-American settlement have been characterized from 9,504 witness trees (randomly selected by surveying protocol and identified as to species, location, and diameter) from the original federal land surveys. Of 29 species, Douglas-fir, redcedar, and western hemlock comprised nearly 75% by abundance and (due to size) 90% by basal area; red alder and bigleaf maple were the main hardwoods. Species compositions ranged widely, from mostly Douglas-fir in dry areas to predominantly hemlock in the Cascade foothills. Region-wide average diameters of species were all under 2 ft, yet some specimens were 8-10 ft across. Of the region's ~1 billion trees, extrapolations from witness trees as samples indicate that ~5 million trees in the mid 1800s were „6 ft in diameter, mainly redcedar. Four forest types were identified: a large "base line" Lowlands Forest Zone and three distinct "outlier" types (a frequently disrupted Floodplains Forest Zone; a droughty Rainshadow Forest Zone; and a moist Foothills Forest Zone that uniquely permitted classic "climax" ecological succession). Appraisals of forest types against present day large-tree criteria for "oldgrowthness" indicate that essentially the entire region's forests qualified as old growth, even though sub-climax Douglas-fir predominated in the Rainshadow and Lowlands Zones, rather than hemlock, as in the Foothills Zone. Arguably, indications suggest that Lowland forests were 300-500 yrs old when the surveyecd, being much older in the Foothills Zone and somewhat younger in the Rainshadow Zone. Today only Floodplains forests resemble their aboriginal predecessors; after logging, all of the "last real forests" of the region have been replaced by urbanization, marginal agriculture, and second-growth woods that are mostly low-grade and alder-infested.