The USDA Forest Service, Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program provides the opportunity to assess the current distribution of American chestnut (Castanea dentata (Marsh.) Borkh) and prospective trends. Assessing chestnut using the FIA data was challenging because of the coarse nature of the FIA sample and chestnut's rarity in natural forests; however, a basic analysis of location and character provide important information for scientists seeking to re-establish chestnut.
Chestnut occurred from Vermont to Alabama or from roughly 45° to 30° north latitude. The estimate of the area of forest land with chestnut at least 1.0-inch in diameter was 2.8 million acres. The area with the highest concentration of chestnut aligned well with Braun's oak-chestnut forest region. About two-thirds of the chestnut sample was on private land and 87 percent was found in oak-hickory stands that vary considerably in composition from north to south. Derivation of a population estimate for the total number of chestnut stems was precluded by missing data. Trends in the existing sample of sapling and tree-size stems suggests a decrease in sapling-size stems and an increase in tree-size stems. Future research on chestnut using FIA data could include filling in data gaps as new inventories are completed, development of improved indicators using new national core health variables, and analysis using geographic information systems (GIS)
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