Posted By Ned Farley on October 14, 2010
Prior to the development of the cemetery’s abandonment, livestock were pastured within its boundaries. The eventual impact that these pastoral pursuits had on the health and taxonomic nature of later vegetative cover were assessed. Special note was given to the varying levels of plant litter as they related to domestic livestock consumption of the developing forest floor. Changes in biomass brought about by confining animals of varying sizes within the site were assessed using the soil tests along the cemetery’s eastern edge (comparing and contrasting plowed to unplowed sections of the glacial drumlin).
Volumetric measurements of phosphorus (P) were used to determine the impact of the pasturing of livestock. The assessment of these measures was contrasted with the findings of Capece et.al. (2007), describing the effects that cattle stocking rates had on pastureland throughout modern Florida (USA).
Capece et.al. (2007) identified the volume of soil phosphorus as an outcome of the number of cattle pastured and the time of year that the stocking occurred (2007:20). In this case, lower stocking rates of beef cattle resulted in an immediate discharge rate of 0.15 kg•L -1 P (Capece et.al. 2007). At Mount Hope the discharge rate for the unplowed transect (pastured) was 0.018 kg•L-1 P. This diminished volume may be the result of the historic abandonment of the practice, or it may relate to the pedological nature of the local, glacial soils and their tendency for rapid drainage. A comparison between these volumetric measurements and those of the plowzone – further east – gave researchers a more comparative picture when assessing these measures; explaining the long-term effects of cattle stocking. Phosphorous levels for the plowzone expressed an average concentration of 0.017 kg•L-1 P. Though both sample tracks expressed low Phosphorus levels in relation to recent pasturing, they did express a difference in acidity.
At the time that the initial fieldwork was conducted at Mount Hope, the plowed soil track was left fallow. The duration that this area was fallow was not known, however if it was used for agricultural crops, the average levels of phosphorus for this portion of the drumlin may have been significantly higher due to the intrusion of nitrates and phosphates related to its treatment with manure. Land to the north and west of the drumlin was actively being plowed in 2008 and 2009; there was evidence of the application of manure and chicken egg refuse.
Bur or Mossy Cup Oaks, as well as white cedars, and many of the fruit trees (such as apple, plum, and pear) that were planted by nineteenth century homesteads benefited from the low acidity of glacial deposits (Billings and Richter, 2006; Margolis, 1977; Risser, 1969). In fact, many of the diseases that shorten the lives of these plants were accelerated by the presence of poorly drained, acidic soil conditions (Olsen 1958; Wood, 1938). The phosphoric nature of Mount Hope soils may account for the presence of oaks within the cemetery community and their continued growth. The history of livestock within the confines of the cemetery may also explain the inability for other local tree types, such as Sugar Maples (Acer saccharum) to penetrate the cemetery plot (maple seedlings were identified within the project area however, they were relegated to the historic soils along the project area’s western edge; a description of the plot’s understory is summarized below) and the understory that developed at the site following the 1950s. If a future understory would be allowed to penetrate the site, these seedlings may begin to appear further east as local soils continue to be neutralized through water action.