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Articles by Brice B. Hanberry

Category : Research article

article id 10754, category Research article
Robert E. Tatina, Brice B. Hanberry. (2022). Historical forests of the Black Hills, South Dakota, USA, determined using General Land Office surveys. Silva Fennica vol. 56 no. 3 article id 10754. https://doi.org/10.14214/sf.10754
Keywords: fire; Ponderosa pine; settlement; ecological reference; Government Land Office; GLO; range of variation
Highlights: Based on the U.S. General Land Office survey, the historical (1878–1915) Black Hills landscape in southwestern South Dakota, USA, was relatively open; Historical survey points with trees had lesser tree densities than current forest plots; Ponderosa pine has become less dominant as fire-sensitive species have increased; This study provides another line of evidence of a changed forest structure.
Abstract | Full text in HTML | Full text in PDF | Author Info

Forests in the western United States generally have increased in tree density since Euro-American settlement, particularly through increases in fire-sensitive species, such as spruces, firs, and junipers. Like most areas, the Black Hills region in western South Dakota and eastern Wyoming was logged for forest products and underwent agricultural conversion before historical forests were documented. To supplement historical reconstructions and accounts, we compared tree composition and densities (diameters ≥12.7 cm at 1.37 m above ground height) from historical General Land Office (GLO) records (years 1878 to 1915) and current Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) tree surveys (years 2011 to 2016) in the Black Hills Highlands of South Dakota. For composition, ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa P. Lawson & C. Lawson) decreased from 95% to 86% of all trees, with a consequent increase specifically of white spruce (Picea glauca (Moench) Voss) from 1.5% to 6.7% of all trees. Ponderosa pine currently is smaller in mean diameter by 7.4 cm, while white spruce is larger in mean diameter by 2.4 cm than historically. When the 35% of historical survey points without recorded trees were excluded, historical tree densities indicated an overall forested structure of savannas and open woodlands with tree densities ranging from 66 trees ha–1 to 162 trees ha–1. However, historical forests of the Black Hills incorporated dense stands. Tree densities have increased two- to more than four-fold, to 311 trees ha–1 currently. These comparisons provide another source of information, paralleling changes documented in surface fire-dependent pine and oak forests throughout the United States, of transitions in forest composition and structure since Euro-American settlement.

  • Tatina, Department of Biological Sciences, Dakota Wesleyan University, Mitchell, SD 57301 USA E-mail: rotatina@dwu.edu (email)
  • Hanberry, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Rapid City, SD 57702 USA E-mail: brice.hanberry@usda.gov

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