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Paleoecology

Ecology Research > Forest Variation and Change in Redding > Paleoecology

Carrying core sammple

David Foster, Alex Ireland, Wyatt Oswald, and Ed Faison extracting a sediment core collected from the Highstead swamp

Nature’s Archives

By investigating microfossils (pollen, diatoms) and other deposits (e.g. charcoal) that accumulate in calm sedimentary environments such as natural ponds and wetlands, it is possible to reconstruct changes in plant communities, climate, and disturbance processes over thousands of years. Researchers at Highstead collaborate with scientists at the Harvard Forest and Emerson College to reconstruct the local environment of Highstead's swamp and the broader landscape surrounding Umpawaug Pond in West Redding.

Umpanuag Pond Pollen Record

 

Umpawaug Pond

A 10,000-year old record from Umpawaug Pond in Redding (see diagram above) depicts changes in the forests and fire history of southwestern Connecticut. Oak forests dominated the entire history in varying abundance. The largest change in the record followed European settlement when fire and logging were used to clear forests and maintain fields, which are indicated by grasses and herbs. Farm abandonment and the regrowth of forests appear in the extreme left of the figure as a decline in herbs and grasses and increase in oak and other trees. The demise of American chestnut by an introduced fungus in the early 20th century is shown in the most recent sediment layers.

Learn More about Southern New England Paleoecology:

Faison, E. Extraordinary accounts of the common ragweed.

Faison, E.K., D.R. Foster, W.W.Oswald, E.D. Doughty, and B.C.S Hansen. 2006. Early-Holocene openlands in southern New England. Ecology 87: 2537-2547.

Oswald, W.W., E.K. Faison, D.R. Foster, E.D. Doughty, B.  Hall, and B.C.S. Hansen, 2007. Post-glacial changes in spatial patterns of vegetation across southern New England. Journal of Biogeography 34: 900-913.