Recent research shows that land use history is an important determinant of current ecosystem function. In the United States, characterization of land use change following European settlement requires reconstruction of the original property mosaic. However, this task is difficult in unsystematically surveyed areas east of the Appalachian Mountains. The Gwynns Falls watershed (Baltimore, MD) was originally surveyed in the 1600-1700s under a system of warrants and patents (commonly known as 'metes and bounds'). A method for the reconstruction and mapping of warrant and patent properties is presented and used to map the original property mosaic in the Gwynns Falls watershed. Using the mapped mosaic, the persistence of properties and property lines in the current Gwynns Falls landscape is considered. The results of this research indicate that as in agricultural areas, the original property lines in the Gwynns Falls watershed are persistent. At the same time, the results suggest that the property mosaic in heavily urbanized/suburbanized areas is generally 'reset.' Further, trends in surveying technique, parcel size, and settlement patterns cause property line density and property shape complexity to increase in the less urbanized upper watershed. The persistence of original patterns may be damping expression of heterogeneity gradients in this urban landscape. This spatial pattern of complexity in the original mosaic is directly opposite of hypothesized patterns of landscape heterogeneity arising from urbanization. The technique reported here and the resulting observations are important for landscape pattern studies in areas settled under unsystematic survey systems, especially the heavily urbanized areas of the eastern United States. ?? 2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Additional publication details
Placing the pieces: Reconstructing the original property mosaic in a warrant and patent watershed