Transformation of American Flora 1620, 1850, 1990


Map Code: Ax00656

When Europeans first arrived, America’s indigenous population were either nomadic or subsistence hunters, managing, rather than supplanting, the native vegetation. During the 18th century, the colonization of the eastern seaboard saw natural forest cover replaced with plantation monocultures to the south, mixed arable farming to the north. During the 19th century, industrialization and mass immigration fuelled explosive population growth and the colonization of the entire continent. Both to feed this population and for export, grain farming replaced forest in the western interior. After the conquest of the Plains Indians in midwest in the 1870s, the prairies were given over first to ranching then wheat. At the same time, rapid expansion of settlement of the west coast saw the removal of natural forest through logging, and the growth of industrialized arable farming. Deforestation reached its peak in the 1920s, a process that was reversed until the 1960s, since when natural forest cover has stabilized.

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