Lewis and Clark's encounters with wildlife and Native Americans: A GIS analysis

TitleLewis and Clark's encounters with wildlife and Native Americans: A GIS analysis
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsLaliberte, Andrea S., Ripple W.J.
Conference Name89th Annual Meeting, Ecological Society of America
Date PublishedAugust 1, 2004
Conference LocationPortland, OR
ARIS Log Number168825
Keywordsecosystems, GIS, human influendes, Lewis and Clark, Native Americans, wildlife
AbstractIt is often difficult to determine human influences on ecosystems before Euro-American settlement. The Lewis and Clark journals contain some of the earliest and detailed written descriptions of a large part of the United States and offer one way to assess the past. We used the journal entries to map Lewis and Clark's encounters with wildlife and the human population and performed a GIS analysis to determine human influences on wildlife. Species richness was higher in areas with few human settlements, such as the west central part of the Plains, while the fewest number of species were encountered in areas with denser human population, along the Columbia River and west to the Pacific coast. With increasing distance from human settlements and with decreasing settlement densities, abundance of large mammals increased. Bison, elk, grizzly and wolves were predominantly found in the plains. Elk, bison, bighorn sheep and wolves were absent from the Columbia Basin. The results show that humans had considerable influence over wildlife distribution and abundance, even under relatively low human population densities. This insight into historical wildlife distribution and abundance will offer a better understanding of the historical reference condition on which current management regimes are often based. The study also shows that human influences should not be underestimated when investigating historical ecological conditions.