Knowledge, both of the historical range of spruce-dominated forests and associated site conditions, is needed by land managers to help define restoration goals and potential sites for restoration. We used an existing digital database of witness trees listed in deeds from 1752 to 1899 to compare characteristics of red spruce (Picea rubens Sarg.) sites to non-red spruce sites to gain an understanding of historical spruce-dominated forests in West Virginia. The analysis revealed that red spruce witness trees were found at significantly higher elevations than non-spruce witness trees across the study area. However, spruce witness trees in the Western Allegheny Mountains subsection were found at significantly lower elevations than non-spruce witness trees. Indicator species analysis determined red spruce to be associated with toe slopes, benches, and valleys, although most locations were on side slopes. Across the entire study area, red spruce witness trees were more likely to be found on northeastern aspects and on acidic and frigid soils of the Mandy series. Historically, red spruce was associated with American beech (Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.), birch (Betula L.), and hemlock (Tsuga canadensis (L.) Carrière). This information should be used to guide red spruce restoration efforts and shows that a range of ecological settings should be considered when setting goals and implementing active management.
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