Europeans' impact on the waterways was felt soon after they arrived, Professor Vrsmarty noted. For example, demand for beaver pelts reduced their population, and the dams the beavers had built collapsed because they were no longer being maintained. The signature of these changes was mapped on a regional scale and found to be substantial.
To develop their methodological model, the team first projected known data sets into a geographic information system and conducted simulations using hydrological models that were calibrated to modern data sets. Further corroboration was achieved, for example, by using British census records and local histories.
From these, they could estimate deforestation patterns and local hydrology change. Where possible, they scaled up these hydrological "snapshots" to make assertions across a larger area.
To apply the model, the team divided the region into three historically consistent sub-regions New England, the mid-Atlantic colonies and the Chesapeake Bay area and studied the effects of physical variables such as soil and climate and sociopolitical factors.
These human factors had significant impact on hydrological development. While the close-knit, religious communities of New England concentrated on fur trading and timber extraction, Chesapeake region saw widespread tree clearance and tobacco planting.
In addition to showing how the results of studies based on contemporary data sets can be corroborated with the accounts of environmental historians to reconstruct colonial-era hydrol
|Contact: Ellis Simon|
City College of New York