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New England Forests Through Time: Insights from the Harvard Forest Dioramas

Series: Harvard University Forest

By: David R Foster(Author), John F O'Keefe(Author)

80 pages, illustrations

Harvard University Press

Paperback | Sep 2000 | #151561 | ISBN: 0674003446
Temporarily out of stock: order now to get this when available Details
NHBS Price: £7.95 $11/€9 approx

About this book

Over the past 300 years New England's landscape has been transformed. The forests were cleared; the land was farmed intensively through the mid-19th century and then was allowed to reforest naturally as agriculture shifted west. Today, in many ways the region is more natural than at any time since the American Revolution. This fascinating natural history is useful background for anyone interested in New England's ecology, wildlife, or landscape. In New England Forests Through Time these historical and environmental lessons are told through the world-renowned dioramas in Harvard's Fisher Museum. These remarkable models have introduced New England's landscape to countless visitors and have appeared in many ecology, forestry and natural history texts. This first book based on the dioramas conveys the phenomenal history of the land, the beauty of the models, and new insights into nature.

"Eighty years ago, before virtual reality, before cinematic fantasies, Richard T. Fisher, then director of the Harvard Forest, and Ernest Stillman, a philanthropist, created a state-of-the-art display to try to explain the changes that occurred in New England over time. This book is both a historical document, giving a sense of how the science of forestry some 75 years ago understood the extent of man's impact on the environment, and a scientific synopsis of our current understanding of the ecological effects of agriculture and urbanization." – Chicago Botanic Garden, Current Books

"In the museum at the Harvard Forest in Petersham, Massachusetts, are 23 large dioramas showing how that land looked at various periods during the past 300 years. This book displays all the dioramas in color for the first time, and the accompanying text interprets the environmental drama they exquisitely depict. Today, one sees, the region is in many ways more natural than at any time since the Revolution."
Harvard Magazine

"The authors do a good job weaving the text with photographs and details from the dioramas to interpret the dynamic landscapes and the consequences of wholesale land-clearing, farm abandonment, and unchecked logging on the hillsides of central New England."
– Yuri Bihun, Northern Woodlands

"Using photographs and details from the dioramas, the authors describe the region's natural history, and interpret its consequences in terms of modern conservation issues. Anyone who sees the book will surely develop a longing to visit or revisit the museum and its dioramas in the near future."
Natural New England

"Over the past 300 years, New England landscape has shifted from forest to field and back again. This book presents this natural and human history through photos of the remarkable dioramas at Harvard's Fisher Museum woven together with a lively, informed narrative."
– David Johns, Wild Earth




Pre-Settlement Forest 1700 A.D.
An Early Settler Clears a Homestead 1740 A.D.
Height of Forest Clearance and Agriculture 1830 A.D.
Farm Abandonment 1850 A.D.
"Old-Field" White Pine Forest on Abandoned Land 1910 A.D.
"Old-Field" White Pine is Succeeded by Hardwoods 1915 A.D.
A Vigorously Growing Forest of Hardwoods 1930 A.D.
The Modern Forest Landscape
Summary: Ecological Lessons from Forest History


Old-Growth Forests
Wildlife Habitat in a Dynamic Landscape
Accelerated Erosion with Intensive Land Use
Forest Fire
Forest Fire Management


Early Treatment of a Hardwood Stand
Improvement Cutting in a Hardwood Stand
First Thinning in a Mixed White Pine-Hardwood Forest
Third Thinning in a Mixed White Pine-Hardwood Forest
Conversion Of Cordwood To Future Sawtimber
Increasing While Pine in Hardwood Stands
Release of Pine from Suppression by Gray Birch
Pruning White Pine to Produce Better Logs
Group Selection Method of Harvesting White Pine
Shelterwood Method in White Pine And Hardwoods


Sugqested Further Reading
About the Harvard Forest
The Fisher Museum

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David R. Foster is Director of the Harvard Forest in Petersham, Massachusetts, and teaches ecology at Harvard University. John F. O’Keefe is the Coordinator of Harvard University’s Fisher Museum of Forestry.

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