Natural Presettlement Features of the Ashley County, Arkansas Area
The General Land Office (GLO) survey records of the Ashley County, Arkansas, area were analyzed for natural attributes including forest composition and structure, prairie communities and aquatic and geomorphological features. Almost 13,000 witness trees from at least 23 families were extracted from the surveys. Most (68% of the total) witness trees were black oak (Quercus velutina), pine (Pinus spp.), post oak (Q. stellata), white oak (Q. alba), hickory (Carya spp.) and sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), with 60% of the taxa having fewer than 20 individuals and 26% represented by a single tree. Witness trees were usually moderate sized with very few small or large individuals noted. The distribution of presettlement grasslands, bottomland forests and upland mixed pine/hardwood forests was approximately mapped across the study area. Catastrophic disturbances mentioned in the GLO records included windthrow, floods, fire, timber harvest and earthquakes. Even during this early period, European settlers were altering the Ashley County landscape with trails, homes, farms, cotton gins and small-scale land clearing. Other notable ecological features in these survey records included large woody debris, wetlands, unique terrain conditions and wild game.