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Tornado damage of Quercus stellata and Quercus marilandica in the Cross Timbers, Oklahoma, USA

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Questions: The Cross Timbers are a mosaic of savannas, grasslands and upland forests, occupying a significant portion of south-central North America. Our questions here were (1) how does a severe tornado affect the two most dominant tree species of the area Quercus marilandica and Q. stellata with respect to damage and mortality; (2) how do such patterns vary as a function of tree size? What are the implications of disturbance for codominance in species-poor systems?

Location: The Cross Timbers in Oklahoma, USA.

Methods: We established a 14.48-ha permanent plot following a severe tornado in 2003. We identified, numbered and tagged each tree and recorded its diameter at breast height (DBH), spatial coordinates, status (dead or alive), and damage type. We examined (1) relative abundance before and after the tornado; (2) differences in damage and mortality, and (3) the influence of tree diameter on the probability of damage and mortality for each species.

Results: Differences in species identity and tree characteristics were significantly related to tree mortality following the tornado, after accounting for spatial locations. The odds of mortality were 12.0 times greater for Q. marilandica than for Q. stellata. Such greater vulnerability of Q. marilandica versus Q. stellata was also reflected in changes in density and basal area. Tree diameter clearly influenced the damage and mortality pattern in Q. stellata; larger trees sustained more damage and mortality. However, Q. marilandica did not exhibit size-dependent mortality.

Conclusion: The tornado affected the two dominant species differently. The intra- and inter-specific differences in windstorm susceptibility may allow coexistence of the two species and are potentially important in the dynamics of the Cross Timbers. Species more damaged might finally benefit from the wind disturbance due to their resprouting ability.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2006

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