Climate response of five oak species in the eastern deciduous forest of the southern Appalachain Mountains, USA
The climatic response of trees that occupy closed canopy forests in the eastern United States (US) is important to understanding the possible trajectory these forests may lake in response to a warming climate. Our study examined tree rings of 664 trees from five oak species (white (Querclus alba L), black (Quercus "velutina Lam.), chestnut (Querus prinus.), northern red (Quercus rubra L.), scarlet (Querclus coccinea Munchh)) from 17 stands in eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina, and northern Georgia to determine their climatic response. We dated the samples using skeleton plots, measured the cores, and compared the site- and regional-level tree-ring chronologies of each separate species with divisional climate data. The oldest trees in each chronology dated back to 203 years for black oak. 299 years for chestnut oak, 171 years for northem red oak, 135 years for scarlet oak, and 291 years for white oak. We successfully developed climate models via multiple regression analyses with statistically significant (P < 0.05) variables representing thc Palmer Drought Severity Index and average monthly temperature for most of the site-species chronologies (average Rl = 0.15). All regional climate response models included the Palmer Drought Severity Index from either June or July as the most significant variable in the climate response, suggesting that growing-season drought is the most important factor limiting oak growth in the southeastern US. An increase in temperature and reduction in moisture is likely to reduce their competitiveness in their currant locations and force these species to migrate to cooler climates, thereby greatly changing ecosystem health and stability in the southern Appalachians.