Historical Changes in the pine barrens of Central Suffolk County, NY (Kurczewski and Boyle, 2000)

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ABSTRACT - Soils, vegetation, fossil pollen and charcoal, disturbance history,

early documents and maps, and insects were used to interpret past changes in the

central Suffolk County, Long Island, New York pine barrens. Before Euro-

American settlement pitch pine-oak-heath woodland, pitch pine-scrub oak barrens,

and dwarf pine plains probably covered portions of the broad outwash

plain south of the Ronkonkoma Moraine. These communities would have occurred

on deep, coarse-textured, excessively drained, nutrient-impoverished,

acidic, fire-prone sandy soils. Logging, land clearance, and repeated humancaused

fires promoted the expansion of barrens vegetation through much of

central Suffolk County during the 17th-19th centuries. Pitch pine became established

on the disturbed loamy, sandy, and gravelly soils. Scrub oak sprouted

profusely on these soils in response to repeated burning of the undergrowth.

The seed for this expansion dispersed from trees and shrubs growing in adjacent

oak-pitch pine and pitch pine-oak woodlands. With 20th century fire suppression,

pine barrens reverted to oak-hardwood forests in northcentral Suffolk

County and oak-pine and pine-oak forests in southcentral Suffolk County. Pine

barrens persisted in sections of eastcentral and southcentral Suffolk County in

response to periodic burning.