Hedge Effects: The Role of Industrial Agriculture in Field Consolidation and Hedgerow Removal in Atlantic Canada, 1968-2010

Josh MacFadyen, University of Prince Edward Island

Historians commonly assume that with the onset of industrial agricultural, farmers removed hedgerows and fence lines in order to expand and consolidate their holdings. This belief has permeated the North American literature on agricultural industrialization, but in many ways it stemmed from a Western European experience that bears independent investigation in woodland ecosystems such as the northeast of Canada and the US. In this detailed study of hedgerows in the agroecosystems of Prince Edward Island (PEI) Canada, I find that the area of hedgerows briefly declined and then regrew. In fact by 2010 the area of hedgerows was significantly larger than it was in 1968, despite the post-World War II trends of agricultural industrialization and modernization. Using a consistent method of aerial photo interpretation across four time points (1968, 1980, 2000, and 2010), this paper examines hedgerows in fourteen representative townships in this primarily agricultural province. The results reveal the size, location, and composition of hedgerows and how these rural features changed over a half decade known for agricultural intensification. Hedgerows have important ecosystem services, including as a habitat for pollinators and other wildlife. They were also significant field divisions and animal shelters in the period known for mixed animal husbandry. As the area of hedgerows increased, it seems that the number of fields (and field divisions) declined. I use a similar case study approach to examine the changing size of fields on PEI between 1968-2010. We have done visual counts of the number of fields on the properties that were delineated by a 1968-1970 map, and I will present the results of those historical comparisons, as well.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 264. Rationalizing Land Use II (20th Century)