The Northwoods is a widely known region in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, but its boundaries have rarely been defined. It is a vernacular region meaning that it is popularly accepted by average people (Zelinsky, 1980). Delineating a region by numerous methods can create a complete, but almost unobservable situation. Defining a region using one feature can be overlaid with others to comprise a more complete and desired result. Many separate characteristics of a region should be investigated when delineating a region. In the case of the Northwoods, one attribute is laid out in the region’s name: Northwoods. Characteristics of the woods or forests of these three states have potential region bounding qualities. The forest of the Northwoods has had important impacts on the cultural and economic circumstances of the northern portions of these states. The Northwoods has forests that have formed after clear-cut logging and slash and burn techniques were abandoned (Carhart, 1959). Can the forests of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan define the Northwoods as a region within the Midwest? In attempting to answer this question, not only land cover was investigated. Different soil characteristics, such as temperature and order, were also examined. The two major soil temperature regimes in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan are the frigid and mesic. There are seven apparent soil orders in these three states. Those most prevalent in the northern portions of the area under investigation are the spodosols, and the histosols. A discipline-centered view was taken to develop these attributes into a region (Paasi, 2002).
For Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan maps were created describing the tree cover, the soil temperature, and soil order within the three states. Using STATSGO soil data and National Land Cover Data, the data was downloaded for the soil and tree cover respectively. By laying the data across our three states, we could now see trends that were forming along our hopeful region. The soil temperature, soil order, and tree cover maps were used to create a data overlay analysis of the region. From the maps that were produced, a final region was chosen.
- State land cover data was downloaded from the USGS Seamless Sever
- Word document of NLCD definitions from Environmental Protection Agency
- State outline shape files downloaded from USGS Seamless Server
- Downloaded STATSGO soil order and temperature
- Data was presented on ArcMAP™
- A binary function of only forested areas was created by using a reclassification tool
- Reclassifying data as a binary function includes changing the value of each unit in order to visualize two groups.
- The soil order and temperature maps were also subject to reclassification in order to bring out desired attributes.
- Soil temperature: frigid
- Soil order: spodosols, and histosols
- A times function was used to create an analysis of frigid soils with forest cover. The forest cover was combined with STATSGO soil data of frigid temperature soils
- By using spodosols and a the binary representation of the forest cover, a map was created with the times function.
- Using the times function again, a map was created by using soil types such as spodosols and histosols. These soils were overlaid with a binary example of the forests cover
Map Creation Process:
Chart 1. This flowchart shows the methodology used to create the maps presented below. The rectangles symbolize a process or action, the circles are references, and the trapezoids are products or data.
As stated in the methods section, data was collected and presented in seven maps. All of these maps serve a purpose in regionalizing the Northwoods as a distinct region. By showing the actual woods of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan within variations on the maps, a conclusion was made that the woods actually do create a region within our interpretation of the Northwoods.
Figure 1 shows the land cover according to the data given by the USGS Seamless Sever. By overlaying the state boundaries with this data, a basis for other maps can be seen and classified. The data for this map is presented further by defining each land class. The green colors represent a forested region can already be mildly seen in the northern portion of the three states if looked at closely.
NLCD 2001 Land Cover Class Definitions
Figure 2 represents the binary function of just forested land in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. As seen, a region is already forming from the basis map of just land cover.
Figure 3 is an example of the soil temperature classification in the three states. Frigid soils are those with an annual temperature that is <8 ˚C, with a mean summer and winter difference is more than 5 ˚C, while mesic soils have a annual soil temperature of 8 to 15 ˚C and a difference of >5 ˚C (FitzPatrick, 1980). This map shows a trend near the 45th parallel of a line separating frigid soils of the northern portion from mesic in the southern. This map shows that a region is also forming within the soil temperature classes.
Soil orders are the basis for figure 4. The soil orders pertaining to forests were those of spodosols and histosols. The data was downloaded from STATSGO and laid upon the three states’ boundaries. While like figure 1, this map is a broad overview of soil orders, by further looking into forested soils, the pink and blue soils are within a region formed by the frigid soils and within the binary forested reclassification.
The frigid soils were used in conjunction with the binary function of forested area against not forested land in Figure 5. By using data analysis, a result was created by using a times function and multiplying the forest binary reclassification by the frigid soils. This is the first map of three that regionalize the northern forested areas of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
Figure 6 illustrates spodosols prevalence times the forest cover in the three states. Although this data analysis is broader than the previous map, it is more specific to the desired region. Spodosols are coniferous soils that are located across the northern portion of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. For an example, the spodosols in northern Wisconsin are hemlock producing soils that are extremely fragile (Buol, 1989). These soils are also located in Canada and across the globe in Russia. The distinguishing factor of these soils is that they are of forest soils, and that is exactly the type of soils that make up a good portion of the Northwoods.
By taking figure 6 and adding histosols into the times equation, figure 7 was created. Histosols are typically formed by glacial deposits and are very moist soils. Most are in conjunction with the hemlock swamps and bogs of the northern regions of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan (Buol, 1989). This map shows the combination of forested spodosols and forested histosols on one map. This region is much defined, but one problem is that of having very sporadic and remote locations compared to the frigid soils and forested areas map.
While most maps created a visual region, one map created the region that will be used as the Northwoods final region. The frigid soils and forested area map (Figure 5) clearly define a region that can be called the Northwoods. While the spodosols map and the combination of spodosols and histosols created regions as well, the frigid soil map is the one used to represent the forest sector of the final delineation of the Northwoods. This map provides most accurate representation of the desired area by including two important aspects of the region: temperature, and forested area. A simplified view of the region can be seen in Figure 8.
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STATSGO, State Soil Geographic Database
USGS Seamless Server
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Zelinsky, Wilbur. "North America's Vernacular Regions." Annals of the Association of American Geographers 70, no. 1 (1980): 1-16.