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Title: Land-use history as a guide for forest conservation and management: Land-Use History
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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Conservation Biology
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
84 to 97
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. Laguna Santa Elena (8.9290° N, 82.9257° W, 1055 m a.s.l.) is a small lake in the Diquís archaeological sub-region of southern Pacific Costa Rica. Previous analyses of pollen and charcoal in a sediment core from Santa Elena revealed a nearly 2,000 year history of vegetation change, maize cultivation and site occupation that is consistent with the archaeological record from the lake basin and surrounding area. Here we present the results of new loss-on-ignition, geochemical and bulk stable carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotope analyses of the Santa Elena sediments that supplement and refine the previous reconstruction. Like many lakes in Central America and the Caribbean, Laguna Santa Elena was a magnet for humans throughout its history. As a result, the lake experienced vegetation modification by humans and maize cultivation at varying intensities over a long duration. The Santa Elena sediments provide a record of palaeoenvironmental change during times of major culture change and increasing cultural complexity in the Diquís region, which occurred during intervals of broader changes driven by external forcing mechanisms, including the Terminal Classic Drought (TCD), the Little Ice Age (LIA) and the Spanish Conquest. Our high resolution lake sediment study from Santa Elena reveals details of thesemore »events at the local scale that are unobtainable by other means, including the timing of the initial intensification of maize cultivation at ca. 1,570 cal BP (AD 380) and two intervals of population decline coinciding with the TCD at ca. 1,085 cal BP (AD 865) and near the start of the LIA at ca. 683 cal BP (AD 1267).« less
  2. Land-use history is the template upon which contemporary plant and tree populations establish and interact with one another and exerts a legacy on the structure and dynamics of species assemblages and ecosystems. We use the first census (2010–2014) of a 35-ha forest-dynamics plot at the Harvard Forest in central Massachusetts to describe the composition and structure of the woody plants in this plot, assess their spatial associations within and among the dominant species using univariate and bivariate spatial point-pattern analysis, and examine the interactions between land-use history and ecological processes. The plot includes 108,632 live stems ≥ 1 cm in diameter (2,215 individuals/ha) and 7,595 standing dead stems ≥ 5 cm in diameter. Live tree basal area averaged 42.25 m 2 /ha, of which 84% was represented by Tsuga canadensis (14.0 m 2 / ha), Quercus rubra (northern red oak; 9.6 m2/ ha), Acer rubrum (7.2 m 2 / ha) and Pinus strobus (eastern white pine; 4.4 m 2 / ha). These same four species also comprised 78% of the live aboveground biomass, which averaged 245.2 Mg/ ha. Across all species and size classes, the forest contains a preponderance (> 80,000) of small stems (<10-cm diameter) that exhibit a reverse-Jmore »size distribution. Significant spatial clustering of abundant overstory species was observed at all spatial scales examined. Spatial distributions of A. rubrum and Q. rubra showed negative intraspecific correlations in diameters up to at least a 150-m spatial lag, likely indicative of crowding effects in dense forest patches following intensive past land use. Bivariate marked point-pattern analysis, showed that T. canadensis and Q. rubra diameters were negatively associated with one another, indicating resource competition for light. Distribution and abundance of the common overstory species are predicted best by soil type, tree neighborhood effects, and two aspects of land-use history: when fields were abandoned in the late 19th century and the succeeding forest types recorded in 1908. In contrast, a history of intensive logging prior to 1950 and a damaging hurricane in 1938 appear to have had little effect on the distribution and abundance of present-day tree species. Our findings suggest that current day composition and structure are still being influenced by anthropogenic disturbances that occurred over a century ago.« less