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Influence of physiographic and climatic factors on spatial patterns of acorn production in Maryland and Virginia, USA

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Abstract Aim 

The aims of this study were to identify the effects physiographic differences have on the spatial synchrony of acorn production within red (Quercus rubra) and white (Quercus alba) oak subgenus groups, to identify climatic factors associated with acorn production patterns, and to assess if and how these relationships vary across a distinct physiographic boundary. Location 

Maryland and Virginia in the eastern United States. Methods 

Using data from 36 survey sites in Virginia (1973–2000) and Maryland (1977–2000), we described the spatial synchrony of annual acorn production based on Mantel tests and modified correlograms at three spatial scales: (1) the entire study area, (2) within two ecological regions (mountain and Piedmont), and (3) between these ecoregions. Using climate data obtained from the National Climate Data Centre, we described the relationship between climate and acorn production within each ecological region using linear regression. Results 

Spatial synchrony in the white oak group acorn production was strong among sites closest together, and declined with distance. The average April temperature during the year of acorn drop was positively related to acorn crop size within the mountain and Piedmont ecoregions. Spatial synchrony in the red oak group was strong among sites closest together and declined with distance in the mountain region. Synchrony was weaker in the Piedmont than in the mountain ecoregion and declined slightly with increasing distance. Between the mountain and Piedmont ecoregions, synchrony was not detected among the closest sites, but was detected with increasing strength as the distance between site pairs increased. In the Piedmont ecoregion, the number of April freeze events and total July precipitation, both 2 years prior to acorn drop, were negatively related to red oak acorn production. In the mountains, average July temperature 2 years prior to acorn drop was positively related to acorn production. Main conclusions 

Physiographic differences affected the spatial acorn production synchrony in the red oak but not in the white oak subgenus group. Climatic factors related to annual acorn production variability differed between subgenus groups and physiographic regions. The physiographic differences between the mountain and Piedmont ecoregions may define spatial patterns of acorn production synchrony in some oak species and mediate climatic influences on acorn production.

Keywords: Acorn production; Appalachian Mountains; Piedmont; Quercus alba; Quercus rubra; climate; physiographic differences; red oak; spatial synchrony; white oak

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Verona, VA 2: West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, Elkins, WV 3: Wildlife and Heritage Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Annapolis, MD 4: USDA Forest Service, Smithville, WV, USA

Publication date: November 1, 2008


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