Abstract - Determination of Early Settlement Prairie-Forest Boundary in Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota from Public Land Survey Records
Shafer, D.S. Determination of Early Settlement Prairie-Forest Boundary in Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota from Public Land Survey Records. University of Arizonia. 9 p.
Wind Cave National Park (WCNP) encompasses 11353 ha of ponderosa pine forest and prairie grass in the Black Hills, SD. A fire suppression policy for the Black Hills beginning in the early part of this century has led to significant forest encroachment onto prairie in WCNP. U.S. General Land Survey records from the 1890's were used to reconstruct early settlement prairie-forest cover. Witness tree locations and secondary landscape descriptions were interpreted to plot forest-prairie boundaries along all section lines. The vegetation transition points were used to demarcate areas of forest and grass cover at the time the area was surveyed. The vegetation reconstruction map was compared to modern vegetation maps to determine areas of vegetation change. Forest expansion has been most significant in areas of metamorphic rock outcrops or coarse-textured soils, perhaps because fire would travel slower along such substrates. Forest expansion was minor on finer-textured soils such as have developed on the Spearfish formation. Forest cover was slightly greater during the 1890's in some linestone areas along the park's western border.
Did You Know?
Fire is an important factor in protecting the prairie. Historically, fires burned across the prairie every 4 to 7 years. Fires burn the small trees that would otherwise march across the prairie and turn the grasslands to forest.