Prior land use and soil legacies related to land use continue to play a significant role in ecosystem structure and functioning in the eastern deciduous forest. On the surface of the southern Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee, abandoned agricultural and home sites are characterized by unusual assemblages of tree species and ground cover, as well as light artifact scatters. To better understand the legacies of past land use on soil properties and forest composition in this region, we intensively sampled three home sites that were abandoned more than 70 y ago and compared them to adjacent forest controls. The home sites had significantly higher concentrations (soil A horizons) for eight of the fourteen elements studied. After examining our plots in ordination space by soil variables, we found that surface soil calcium and phosphorus concentrations were negatively associated to control plots and were the best indicators of intensive human disturbance. Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) had the highest importance value in the control forest, and the 23rd highest importance value at the home sites. There were 34 different species encountered at the home sites, including many species usually found at lower elevations in limestone-derived soils (e.g., Celtis occidentalis, Juglans nigra, Viburnum rufidulum, Fraxinus spp.). We recovered historic artifacts and charcoal from surface soils at all three sites, and prehistoric artifacts were found at two sites. Abandoned home sites are common throughout the eastern deciduous forest and evidence from this study indicates that land use legacies continue to influence forest dynamics several decades after anthropogenic inputs ceased.
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Vol. 39 • No. 2