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Topoedaphic and morphological complexity of foliar damage and mortality within western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis var. occidentalis) woodlands following an extreme meteorological event

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Abstract:

Abstract Aim 

An extreme early season freeze event in October 2002 resulted in significant foliar damage and/or mortality within western juniper woodlands. We identify the geographical patterns of tree damage based on morphological, topographical and edaphic parameters, and discuss the ecological implications of this event. Location 

Oregon, USA (44.0–44.2° N, 120.3–120.9° W). Methods 

We sampled trees on four matched pairs of disturbed and minimally disturbed study sites within the core area of tree damage. We collected information about age, morphology (height, basal area, level of foliar damage), and topographic position (elevation, slope, aspect) for each tree sampled using dendroecological and GPS/GIS procedures. We collected plot-level data on tree density and degree of cover for shrubs and grasses. We used a series of Mann–Whitney, Kruskal–Wallis and Wilcoxon tests and graphical analyses to determine if significant differences exist in our collected variables both between matched pairs and within our disturbed sites. Results 

Topographically, we found that aspect was a critical element regulating damage, with trees in colder microenvironments (north-westerly slopes) experiencing less damage because they were further along in the annual process of cold-hardening. The majority of damaged trees were found in areas of higher density and more even age structure that are typical of recent juniper afforestation. Morphologically, we show that trees with greater basal areas and/or less stature were less likely to have foliar damage, consistent with winter cavitation. Main conclusions 

Our results show that the spatial pattern of damage was closely related to topography and tree morphology, parameters that, in turn, correspond closely to differences between the historical locales of western juniper and juniper woodlands that have emerged in a 100+ year period of rapid afforestation. This freeze event fits the criteria for a large, infrequent disturbance in that it was spatially complex and may act as an endogenous factor that can contribute to stand maintenance.

Keywords: Cavitation; Oregon; USA; cold-hardening; foliar damage; freeze event; large infrequent disturbance; western juniper

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2699.2007.01743.x

Affiliations: Carolina Tree-Ring Science Laboratory, Department of Geography, University of North Carolina-Greensboro, Greensboro, NC 27403, USA

Publication date: 2007-11-01

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