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Effects of Oak Decline on Species Composition in a Northern Arkansas Forest

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Since 1999, widespread and locally severe oak decline and mortality have occurred throughout the Ozark Mountains of northern Arkansas and southern Missouri. A contributing factor in the decline and mortality is an outbreak of the red oak borer [Enaphalodes rufulus (Haldeman) (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae)]. In northern Arkansas, a 2,150 ac mature oak forest severely affected by decline was selected as a case study to describe changes in species composition and stand structure and to assess regeneration potential of oaks and non-oak species. Mortality reduced total overstory basal area from 105 to 57 ft2/ac, and overstory density decreased from 156 to 89 trees/ac. Most dead and dying trees were northern red oak (Quercus rubra L.) and black oak (Q. velutina Lam.). Basal area and density of overstory red oaks were reduced from 51 to 11 ft2/ac and from 60 to 11 trees/ac, respectively. These trees died regardless of dbh class. Mortality was less common in white oak (Q. alba L.) and was generally limited to smaller trees. Understory trees and taller seedlings were predominantly red maple (Acer rubrum L.), flowering dogwood (Cornus florida L.), blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica Marsh.), and black cherry (Prunus serotina Ehrh.). Oaks less than 3 ft tall were abundant, but taller oak seedlings and saplings were uncommon. Tree mortality increased the proportion of white oak and hickories (Carya spp.) in the overstory, and stimulated a regeneration response of mostly non-oak species. South. J. Appl. For. 27(4):264–268.
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Keywords: Mortality; Ozark Mountains; environmental management; forest; forest management; forest resources; forestry; forestry research; forestry science; natural resource management; natural resources; oak decline; red oak borer; regeneration

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Publication date: 2003-11-01

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