Date of Award
Master of Science
Forests across the Shawnee Hills of Southern Illinois have a rich land-use history since their settlement in the mid 1800’s. An historical ecology study was conducted to describe quantitatively, the species composition and structural changes of the pre-European settlement forest compared to current forest composition. Based on past land-use disturbances most of the forest in the Shawnee Hills has been manipulated by humans for agriculture, pasture, and fire for homesteads. Most land parcels have changed ownership many times and with that variability in ownership, the land-use has often changed affecting modern forest development. In the areas of steep terrain or untillable land many forests have remained largely intact as second growth woodlots. Here we find our quality mature oak-hickory stands, with many older specimens. In places where land-use disturbances have been frequent, species composition and stand structure appear to exhibit vast differences. This study will look at species composition across three forest types to help us understand the role land-use history plays in different successional stages across the study area.After developing a timeline of land-uses and parcel size, field samples were collected including overstory, sapling, seedling, and herbaceous layer species to understand the current species composition. Elm and dogwood were found to have the highest relative importance value in both early successional and mid-successional plots,while white oak followed by black oak had the highest relative importance values in the mature oak hickory plots.A one-way ANOVA was tested comparing forest type (early successional, mid-successional, and mature oak-hickory) and species basal area (oak species vs non oak species). This test concluded that early successional and mature oak hickory stands were significantly different regarding basal area as well as mid-successional and mature oak-hickory stands. Early successional and mid-successional stands were found to be similar with a p-value of 0.365 therefore do not have a significant difference in basal area. From these data our results suggest that time since abandonment and type of land-use that took place, play significant roles in the current species composition and how it is dispersed across this site.
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