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The Forest Habitat of the University of Kansas Natural History Reservation   By: (1909-2009)

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University of Kansas Publications Museum of Natural History

Volume 10, No. 3, pp. 77 127, 2 pls., 7 figs. in text, 4 tables December 31, 1956

The Forest Habitat of the University of Kansas Natural History Reservation

BY

HENRY S. FITCH AND RONALD L. MCGREGOR

UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS LAWRENCE 1956

UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS PUBLICATIONS, MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

Editors: E. Raymond Hall, Chairman, A. Byron Leonard, Robert W. Wilson

Volume 10, No. 3, pp. 77 127, 2 pls., 7 figs. in text, 4 tables Published December 31, 1956

UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS Lawrence, Kansas

PRINTED BY FERD VOILAND, JR., STATE PRINTER TOPEKA, KANSAS 1956

26 3855

The Forest Habitat of the University of Kansas Natural History Reservation

By

HENRY S. FITCH and RONALD L. MCGREGOR

Introduction

In northeastern Kansas, before it was disturbed by the arrival of white settlers in the eighteen fifties, tall grass prairies and deciduous forests were both represented. These two contrasting types of vegetation overlapped widely in an interdigitating pattern which was determined by distribution of moisture, soil types, slope exposure and various biotic factors.

The early explorers who saw this region, and the settlers who came later, left only incomplete descriptions, which were usually vague as to the locality and the species of plants represented. As a result, there is but little concrete information as to the precise boundaries between the forests and grasslands, and opinions differ among ecologists. No representative sample of either type remains.

It may be assumed that the plant communities existing one hundred years ago and earlier were far more stable than those of the present that have resulted from man's disruptive activities. This stability was only relative, however. Within the last few thousand years since the final withdrawal of the Wisconsinan ice sheet, fairly rapid and continual change must have occurred, as a result of changing climate, the sudden extinction of various large, dominant mammals, and finally the impact of successive aboriginal cultures.

The land north of the Kansas River had been a reserve for the Delaware Indians. This land was thrown open to settlement as a result of two separate purchases from the tribe, in 1860 and 1866. The alluvial bottomlands were fertile and soon were under cultivation.

History

Because the prairies and forests were soon destroyed or altered by cow, ax, plow and fire, knowledge of the region's ecology under the conditions that prevailed in the early nineteenth century and the centuries before must be gained largely from circumstantial evidence. Although there were no ecologists among the first settlers in Kansas, occasional glimpses of the region's ecology are afforded by the writings of early residents who mentioned native plant and animal life from time to time. However, such mention was usually casual and fragmentary.

A brief early description of forest in northeastern Kansas, which is casual and incomplete, and perhaps misleading, since it differs from later accounts, was included in Major W. S. Long's report of the exploring expedition that passed through country now included in Johnson, Douglas, Shawnee, Wabaunsee, Riley, Pottawatomie, Jackson, Jefferson and Leavenworth counties in 1819. "The catalogue of the forest trees in this region is not very copious. The cottonwood and the plane tree [sycamore] everywhere form conspicuous features of the forests... Continue reading book >>




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