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A brief history of Ohio's forests

January 22, 2019

Ohio’s forests, like many throughout the United States, have gone through some extraordinary changes over time. Knowledge of these changes, what caused them, and the current state of Ohio’s forests foster important understanding of our natural habitat. 


Here are a few significant facts about Ohio’s forests:


  • 10,000 years ago – soon after the ice age – Ohio’s landscape experienced a significant transformation from frozen tundra to fir and spruce forests. 


  • As rising temperatures continued, more and more species - like beech, maple, oak and hickory – began to migrate north. 


  • 1,000 years ago, Ohio’s forests were being managed by the Native Americans that lived here. They used cutting and burning techniques that resulted in open understories and more nut and fruit producing species – supporting a wider variety of animals. 


  • By the time native cultures disappeared, Ohio’s forest cover was estimated to be 95%. European expansion and deforestation during the 19th century reduced the area covered by forest to just 10% by the early 1900s.


  • In 1906 Ohio’s Division of Forestry was created, and by 1912 the Ohio Constitution was amended to create a forest reserve system tasked with purchasing lands for the purpose of forest restoration. 


  • Today, forest coverage in Ohio is back up to 30% with 109 different tree species and 48 forest types. Ohio’s dominant tree groups include 1) oaks and hickories, which account for more than half of our forests, and 2) northern hardwoods, which account for another third. 


  • While Ohio’s forests are healthier now than a century ago, they continue to face new challenges, especially disease. Diseases that continue to plague our forests include chestnut blight, Dutch elm disease, emerald ash borer, hemlock woolly, and thousand cankers disease.


Ripley Tree Service provides expert care for the entire lifecycle of your trees. We’re an independent, family business with 3 arborists on staff, serving Northeast Ohio since 2001.









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