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Harvard Forest Symposium Abstract 2019

  • Title: Did the 16th Century Megadrought synchronize forest dynamics across the Northeastern US?
  • Primary Author: Neil Pederson (Harvard Forest)
  • Additional Authors: Ruben Delgado (Harvard Forest); Daniel Druckenbrod (Rider University); Tessa Mandra (Harvard Forest); David Orwig (Harvard Forest)
  • Abstract:

    The 16th Century Megadrought is the most severe, sustained, widespread, and synchronous drought occurring the Northeastern U.S. of the last 500 years. Large, infrequent, regional disturbances like this have the capacity to determine forest structure and function for centuries in the regions they impact, and to date, we have little understanding of the ecological impacts of this drought in the Northeastern U.S. Leveraging a network of annual tree growth from historic timbers that range in age from the mid-1400s to the late 1800s allows us to study the impacts of the 16th Century Megadrought on forest dynamics over centuries. Preliminary results indicate a strong, synchronous response to the drought in the mid-Hudson River Valley and Boston areas (and subsequent synchronous response to disturbances in the mid-17th and mid-18th centuries). We are continuing to add to and process this regional dataset, rethinking regional distinctions, and testing for synchrony. These results will inform modelers and managers about the potential lasting impacts of a megadrought on forest processes, especially important given the expectation that climate change will prompt increased exposure to large-scale disturbances.

  • Research Category: Historical and Retrospective Studies; Regional Studies