Author

Aya Yamamoto

Date of Award

5-2013

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Environmental and Forest Biology

Thesis Advisor

Robin Kimmerer

Abstract

In contemporary landscapes culturally important plants may suffer in the absence of their ancestral caretakers, who shaped pre-colonial ecosystems via intentional burning, coppicing, plant propagation, and manipulation of species composition. Therefore, it is important to understand how culturally important plants occur generally in contemporary ecosystems sans traditional management. Given that 99.9% of contemporary forest is secondary, it is especially important to examine occurrences of culturally important plants in secondary forest. To address this issue, culturally important plants in old growth forests at the Huntington Wildlife Forest, New York, were compared to those found in burned and defoliated forests at Cranberry Lake Biological Station, New York. Herbaceous understory species were inventoried at all sites. Importance values for culturally important species were compared among old growth, burned, and defoliated forest using ANOVA. Importance values of culturally important plants were significantly different among old growth, burned, and defoliated sites. Highest species richness and highest importance values occurred in old growth forest. As disturbance was generally used to increase biodiversity and incidences of culturally important plants, this result may suggest that common disturbances and land use histories do not mimic conditions established by indigenous practices. This would have implications for the survival of culturally important plants that have suffered population decline, as well as for the survival of cultural traditions that depend on those plants.

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