Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 2:30 PM
GEOSPATIAL AND LIDAR-BASED ANALYSIS OF 18TH TO EARLY 20TH CENTURY TIMBER HARVESTING AND CHARCOAL PRODUCTION IN SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND
This paper uses remote sensing and geospatial techniques to examine the distribution, morphology, and characteristics of charcoal production, landscape change and Anthropocene processes in southern New England. Southern New England’s landscape preserves a diverse array of historic human impacts whose legacy continues through today. One such impact involves the discovery of iron ore, which prompted timber harvesting and charcoal production in the last part of the 17th century and onwards. The changes wrought by the associated economy impacted settlement patterns and the development of whole towns, but also greatly impacted the physical landscape. Today, the use of lidar to study the fine-scale topography of southern New England reveals tens of thousands of charcoal burning platforms (3 to 8 m in diameter) on hillslopes beneath the forest canopy. In northwestern Connecticut, analysis of lidar data has revealed at least 20,434 platforms in a 1,170 km2 area – an intensity of about 17 platforms per km2. The morphology of the platforms varies spatially from flat surfaces carved into steep slopes and reinforced with stones, to ephemeral depressions with raised centers that are barely visible in the field. Similar features from concurrent time periods have been identified using lidar in England, France, and Germany, as well as Pennsylvania. In southern New England, platforms are significantly clustered, and appear on steeper hillslopes that range upwards of 20 degrees, with a mean of 10.4 degrees. Steeper slopes often made tillage more difficult and were often used for woodlots or pasture, thus these areas would have been ideal for timber harvesting and associated charcoal platforms. These findings suggest that the physical landscape influenced Anthropocene land management and the magnitude and patterns of land use; understanding these feedbacks is integral in understanding the modern southern New England landscape and its future.