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Aims: The previously abundant high quality and open canopy oak savanna communities in the Midwest have been reduced by more than 98% of their pre-settlement (pre-1840) area because of changing land use and represent some of the most threatened ecosystems in North America. Prior knowledge of oak savanna communities’ climatic resilience to potential impact of climate change and competition is critical to restoration success. This study examined sensitivity to climatic stress, and effects of competition, which are important considerations during oak savanna restoration.
Methodology: Dendrochronological methods were used to sample oak savanna communities located in MacCready Reserve (MR) situated in southern Michigan, U.S.A. The influence of climate (mainly temperature and precipitation) on white oak (Quercus alba L.), red maple (Acer rubrum L), and black cherry (Prunus serotina Ehrh) were correlated using dendroclimatic techniques. The effect of competitor species (A. rubrum and P. serotina) on Q. alba were examined using competitor ratio chronologies and examining correlations with climatic variables.
Results: Findings indicate that precipitation in winter, spring, and summer is beneficial for radial growth of white oak. White oak is more resilient to drought stress than red maple and black cherry due to its ecophysiological adaptations but tends to grow rather slower when in competition with shade tolerant and fire sensitive competitor species.
Conclusion: Overall, this study has shown that temperature and precipitation play key roles in tree productivity and thus climatic sensitivity should be incorporated in the restoration of oak savanna ecosystems.
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