Historic and prehistoric changes in the Rome, New York pine barrens (Kurczewski, 1999)

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ABSTRACT - Early documents and maps, landscape features, soils, climate, fossil pollen and charcoal as evidence of vegetation and fire history, modern plants, and insects were used to evaluate past changes in the pitch pine communities on the Rome Sand Plains of central New York. Pitch pine and ericaceous shrubs became important at this locality ca. 1500 to 1600 A. D. Increased disturbance including Indian-caused fires may have triggered this event. Euro-American logging, land clearance, and fire in the 19th and early 20th centuries helped to maintain existing pine barrens and convert mesophytic deciduous-coniferous forest to pine barrens. Fires associated with brush removal, a railroad that ran through the area, blueberry production, and arson destroyed soil organic horizons and decreased available moisture and nutrients favoring xerophytic over mesophytic plant species. Pine barrens at this locality are reverting to mesophytic deciduous-coniferous forest with abandonment of the railroad and late 20th century fire suppression efforts.