Human History

Human presence on landscapes greatly shapes and changes their ecology. Human use is determined by the landscape, and the landscape is then determined by the human use in a constantly evolving cycle. There are three distinct land-use eras that I can attribute to Centennial Woods and to my place within the woods. The first era belongs to the indigenous people of the area, the Abenaki. They most likely used the pre-settlement forest that dominated the area for hunting, gathering, and as a location for their small settlements. Specifically, at my place, they may have used the Centennial Brook as a source of water for drinking or even irrigation. Although the brook is not large enough to provide substantial fish species for subsistence, it is still useful for orienting location and setting trails to find their way from one place to another. This type of livelihood had a minimal impact on the ecology of the forest. The second era, of European colonists, had a much more dramatic impact on the forest through the process of deforestation. This change began slowly, with a few areas being cleared for ship masts, firewood, construction, etc. As markets grew and demand increased, the forest was increasingly cleared. Eventually, with a new demand for agriculture, forests were cleared solely to create more farmland. This occurred to Centennial Woods. When a forest is cleared for agriculture, the ecosystem services formerly provided by the forest are lost. Erosion increases along waterways, such as Centennial Brook, and the soil is increasingly depleted from being over-worked. At my place specifically, farmers may have used the brook as a source of water just as the Abenaki had. The brook would also keep the soil moist for the crops. Eventually, as farmland was abandoned in the late 1800s, forests had the chance to regenerate; these forests were dominated by white pines (such as the few found today at my phenology site). Since then, the moist soil has attracted the white oak and the yellow birch I see today, along with the many young eastern hemlocks sprouting up in the shade. The third era of land use in Centennial Woods is the current, modern era. Today, the Woods and my place are frequented by locals as an escape from city life, taking advantage of the trails and natural sites. The area is now managed by the University of Vermont and often utilized for education and research.

“Landscape History of Central New England.” Harvard Forest. The President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2011. Accessed 6 Dec. 2017.

“Centennial District.” The University of Vermont Campus Master Plan & Design Guidelines. The University of Vermont, n.d. Accessed 6 Dec. 2017.