- Hoffmann, Kristen Andrea
University of Maine School of Forest Resources
Disturbance histories are important factors in determining the composition and structure of today's forests: Not least among these disturbances is land-use history, due to its widespread and long-lasting effects. Land clearing for Maine peaked in 1880 at 6.5 million acres, with the coast and river valleys the first to be developed and utilized as farming communities. Maine's coastal islands contain some of the longest-impacted areas of forest in the state. Long Island, located in Blue Hill Bay, was first settled in 1779.
In order to capture the most comprehensive view of vegetation composition and structure on the southern part of Long Island, a variable-width transect sampling method was employed within each property, encompassing as many different soil types and vegetation classes as possible. Tree coring plots were also established along these transect lines in order to analyze vegetation age trends. It is likely that all harvestable stands and arable land was cleared during settlement. The first new cohort of trees began growing in the abandoned agricultural fields and pastures, following the general trend of abandonment, with older trees growing in the first-abandoned inland pastures, and younger trees occupying the last-abandoned homesteads and gardens nearer the shoreline. Subsequent disturbances, such as partial logging, blueberry field burning, and wind events, opened gaps to allow establishment of the following cohorts.