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Pre-EuroAmerican settlement forests in Redwood National Park, California, USA: a reconstruction using line summaries in historic land surveys

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Extensive logging in the twentieth century destroyed much of the coniferous forests in the lower Redwood Creek basin of Redwood National Park. Restoration of cutover lands requires the identification of historical, pre-logging reference conditions. Field notes from the original Public Land Surveys were used to reconstruct the pre-EuroAmerican settlement forests. Most reconstructive studies based on historic surveys rely on bearing tree evidence over large areas to determine vegetation patterns over several hundreds to thousands of square kilometers. Due to the small size of the study area (approximately 200 km2), bearing tree evidence could not accurately reconstruct the vegetation at this scale. Instead, lists of the overstory and understory vegetation for each surveyed mile (line summaries) were employed. Analysis of line summaries evidence identified the historical importance, geographical range, and environmental influences on woody species and vegetation communities. Topography, especially elevation, and soil texture were significantly correlated with plot-scale ordination scores derived from non-metric multidimensional scaling. The influence of topography and distance to ocean coast on the historical distribution of dominant woody species concurs with findings from present-day field studies of local and regional old-growth forest. A comparison with present-day vegetation maps revealed that coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), and red alder (Alnus rubra) experienced the most substantive changes in the vegetation as a result of twentieth century land use activities.

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I would like to thank Ted Sickley for assistance in GIS data preparation and Stephen Veirs for guidance in the formative stages of the project. I am also grateful to Tom Vale, Matt Turner, Caroline Fritschle, Joan Welch, and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Joy A. Fritschle.

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Fritschle, J.A. Pre-EuroAmerican settlement forests in Redwood National Park, California, USA: a reconstruction using line summaries in historic land surveys. Landscape Ecol 24, 833–847 (2009).

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