Using geographic information systems to map characteristics of an old-growth forest in western Massachusetts

Ewing, Bayard C.
Tom Wessels, MA
Department of Environmental Studies
The purpose of this thesis was to analyze the characteristics of an old-growth forest in Charlmont, Massachusetts. The survey data were processed through Arc View GIS in order to differentiate between old-growth and old-second growth forest areas so that the boundaries of the Trout Brook old-growth forest could be mapped. Arc View was used to evaluate and describe, forest community associations of canopy tree species. It was also used to analyze and describe forest regeneration in order to predict the forest's future prospects in relation to deer browsing and beech bark scale disease. The study found that there was little or no difference between the characteristics of the old-growth and the old second-growth forest areas. However, by using a combination of both old-growth characteristics and tree age data, a methodology was devised to determine the boundaries of old-growth areas, and the Trout Brook forest was mapped. A comparison of canopy species and sapling species suggested that the composition of the forest was changing. The canopy is currently dominated by sugar maples. However, regeneration of sugar maples seemed to be negatively impacted by deer browsing. This was shifting regeneration toward American beech, but the beech was being killed by beech bark disease. Because of these factors, the ability of this area to maintain old-growth trees seems somewhat questionable.

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