Dendroecology and land-use history were used to investigate the ecological history of a 326-year-old Quercus prinus L. forest. Quercus prinus, Castanea dentata (Marsh.) Borkh., and Pinus rigida Mill, dominated this talus slope prior to European settlement based on witness tree records. Oak species have exhibited continuous recruitment over three centuries probably in response to periodic fire and wind disturbances. While the stand escaped the direct impacts of timber cutting and the charcoal iron industry, the indirect effects of these land-use practices increased growth and recruitment. Different criteria were used for understory versus overstory trees to improve our detection of growth releases. Overall, major disturbances occurred approximately every 40 and 31 years before and after European settlement, respectively. This century, old-growth Q. prinus experienced marked growth increases coupled with high recruitment following the introduction of the chestnut blight (Cryphonectria parasitica (Murr.) Barr.) to the stand in 1909. Tree growth was also highly correlated with temperature and Palmer drought severity indices between 1895 and 1995. Climatic fluctuations in the 1820s-1830s and 1920s reduced radial growth and recruitment resulting in stem exclusion stages following regeneration pulses. Relating land-use history and climatic data to the dendroecology of this forest improved our understanding of its historical development.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Global and Planetary Change