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Publication Date


First Advisor

Jesse Bellemare

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Biological Sciences


Land use history, Secondary forests, Exotic plants, Soil pH, Soil calcium, Forest declines, Hydrogen-ion concentration, Soil acidity, Soil-Analysis, Land use-History


Understanding the long-term effects of human land use on soil chemistry and forest vegetation is an important part of conservation and biodiversity preservation. As the impacts of climate change become more prevalent so does the need to moderate its effects. Identifying the lasting changes made to soil chemistry and the effects these alterations have on plant species richness will provide a comprehensive understanding for future efforts to reduce negative impacts created by human activity. In this study soils samples were taken from three 19th century farm sites in western Franklin county in western Massachusetts that have been abandoned for more than 100 years. Samples were collected within and adjacent to old farmhouse foundations, as well as at 50 and 100 meters distance from foundations in four compass directions. These soils were tested for soil chemistry, texture, and seedbank composition. Results showed significantly elevated soil pH and calcium concentrations near old foundations, while soils far from foundations were more acidic and exhibited lower calcium concentrations. Other soil nutrients, like magnesium, paralleled these trends. In contrast, aluminum concentrations were significantly higher far from foundations. The soil seedbank produced similar numbers of seedlings near and far from old foundations, but the number of species emerging was significantly higher in samples collected near old foundations. Further, a greater proportion of the plant species emerging from soils near foundations were weedy, non-native exotics. These patterns likely reflect the greater soil nutrient availability and fertility around old foundations supporting the growth of more nutrient demanding plant species in the past, when the soil seed bank was formed. The persistent changes in the soil chemistry documented seem likely to persist for centuries and will likely continue to effect vegetation patterns and species richness into the future.


2018 Linda A. Patterson. Access limited to the Smith College community and other researchers while on campus. Smith College community members also may access from off-campus using a Smith College log-in. Other off-campus researchers may request a copy through Interlibrary Loan for personal use.




51 pages : illustrations. Includes bibliographical references (pages 26-28)