Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 159–165 | Cite as

Historic grazing in southern New England, USA, recorded by fungal spores in lake sediments

  • Maria E. Orbay-Cerrato
  • W. Wyatt OswaldEmail author
  • Elaine D. Doughty
  • David R. Foster
  • Brian R. Hall
Original Article


Decadal-scale analyses of fungal spores in a lake-sediment core from Ware Pond, located in the town of Marblehead in northeastern Massachusetts, test the potential of this approach for reconstructing past sheep and cattle grazing in southern New England, USA. The influx of spores of Sordaria and other coprophilous taxa increases at ad 1650, which corresponds with the beginning of European settlement, and subsequent peaks in these taxa at ad 1840 coincide with maximum abundances of weedy and agricultural taxa in the pollen record. Historical data from Marblehead and neighbouring towns indicate that maximum numbers of cattle and sheep occurred at this time. These findings suggest that fungal spores in New England lake sediments can be used to reconstruct changes in grazing pressure over time at the landscape scale.


Charcoal Coprophilous fungal spores Fire Land use Massachusetts Palaeoecology Pollen analysis 



We thank Jon Honea for field assistance. Bas van Geel, Michael O’Connell, and an anonymous referee provided constructive feedback that improved the manuscript. This research was funded by National Science Foundation grants DEB-1146207, DEB-1237491, and DBI-1459519.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria E. Orbay-Cerrato
    • 1
    • 2
  • W. Wyatt Oswald
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Elaine D. Doughty
    • 2
  • David R. Foster
    • 2
  • Brian R. Hall
    • 2
  1. 1.Program in Biology, Division of Biology and MedicineBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  2. 2.Harvard ForestHarvard UniversityPetershamUSA
  3. 3.Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary StudiesEmerson CollegeBostonUSA

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