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Bowles, Marlin L.
McBride, Jenny

Pre-European Settlement Vegetation of Kane County, Illinois as part of the Report to The Kane County Forest Preserve District, Chicago Wilderness, USDA Forest Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, & Illinois Conservation Foundation

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Born digital
Date created
Report to The Kane County Forest Preserve District, Chicago Wilderness, USDA Forest Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Illinois Conservation Foundation.
We mapped and analyzed the landscape pattern and composition of vegetation described by the U. S. Public Land Survey (PLS) of Kane County, Illinois, which was conducted between 1837 and 1840. Kane County was 61 % prairie, wet prairie and marsh, and 38 % timber, which occurred in large blocks in the northern half of the county and in the eastern edge of the county east of the Fox River. Timber west of the Fox River averaged less than 50 trees/ha, indicating widespread savanna conditions. However, tree densities averaged almost 100 trees/ha along the east side of the Fox River, indicating that this area supported forest conditions. Woodland, represented by 50-100 trees/ha, was less common than savanna or forest. Oaks dominated almost all tracts of timber. Bur oak was most important in savanna, where white oak and black oak were sub-dominant. White oak was dominant in woodland and forest, especially east of the river. Black oak and sugar maple were also sub-dominant east of the river, with sugar maple more important in woodland and forest. Other mesophytic species including red oak, elm, hickory, ash, basswood and ironwood were much less abundant and reached their greatest importance in woodland and forest, especially east of the Fox River. Woody understory vegetation was also most abundant in timber east of the Fox River, and was dominated by American hazelnut. The occurrences of forest vegetation with woody undergrowth on the eastern sides of watercourses supports the hypothesis that eastward-moving prairie fires driven by prevailing winds caused the pattern and structure of the vegetation of Kane County. These findings indicate that restoring fire processes in relation to landscape features, as well as ecologically appropriate species, should be important objectives in restoration and management of woody vegetation in this region. The co-occurrence of white oak and sugar maple in forest conditions with woody undergrowth dominated by hazel provides new information on the structure of such fire protected presettlement forests, and helps set restoration goals for this poorly understood type of vegetation.
Subject - keywords and LC headings
Surveying--Public lands
Vegetation surveys