Friday, January 7, 2011

Forests, then and now

I was visiting a friend in the 411 lofts last summer and decided to peek out at the city from the 10th floor lounge. From above, Ann Arbor looks like a handful of buildings jutting out of a sea of green. As you might expect, Tree Town is filled with Trees. It is interesting, though, to see how forested Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County were when Europeans began to settle the area. In the early 1800s the Michigan Territory was surveyed and explorers recorded the identity of the forest tree species at 1.6 km (1 mile) intervals. This gives us a reasonable idea of the pre-settlement land cover in the state. What's more, SEMCOG has shapefiles with this data on their website. So, if you have access to ArcMap, you can make cool maps like these:

The stark contrast between current land cover and pre-settlement land cover reminds me of the Banksy graffiti on the old Packard Plant:

Picture via


  1. So does this post count as outreach for your research project? those maps seem vaguely familiar to me...