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Harvard Forest Symposium Abstract 2017

  • Title: Can Quercus rubra persist in the understory for a century?
  • Primary Author: Melinda Paduani (University of Central Florida)
  • Additional Authors: Daniel Bishop (Harvard Forest); David Orwig (Harvard Forest); Melinda Paduani (University of Central Florida); Neil Pederson (Harvard Forest)
  • Abstract:

    The ability of trees to persist in the understory from decades to centuries is a trait that should lead to ecological success. Currently, Quercus rubra appears to be experiencing a failure to recruit, suggesting to some that its future is limited. To investigate for this issue, we examined four sites that exhibited a gradient of past human and natural disturbance history: two old growth forests, one with a mixed history of human and natural impacts, and the human-dominated Prospect Hill tract here at Harvard Forest. The objectives of this experiment are to determine the ability of Quercus rubra to persist suppressed. Periods of suppression and release were used to quantify how long the trees at each site took to grow to breast height and to examine growth response to disturbance. The tree we sampled ranged in age from 64 to 346 years old. The time for a Quercus rubra to grow from its base to breast height ranged from 3 years to nearly a century 100 years. Quercus rubra displayed the ability to persist in the understory of dense forests, forming radial growth rings at < 0.5 mm yr-1 for up to 8 decades in some trees. We found that Quercus rubra has the ability to persist in forests over long periods of time suggesting that their future is likely bright.

  • Research Category: Historical and Retrospective Studies, Group Projects, Conservation and Management