Influence of elevation on tree species distribution and growth in the southern Appalachian Mountains
Steele, Jason Keith
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The southern Appalachian Mountains have long been an area of interest for the analysis of forest species growth and composition. Past forest vegetation studies focus on species composition and structure for relatively local scale research areas. Species distribution within this geographic area was compiled from studies published from 1956 to 2006. The distribution of hardwood species within the southern Appalachians decreased as the elevation of the sites increased, but this relationship could not be solely attributed to elevation gradient. In order to better understand the relationship between elevation on the radial growth of tree species within the region, an elevation microsite was selected to explore the relationship between elevation and the radial growth of upland oak. Eight study sites across an elevation gradient were selected, and 20 oak tree cores were collected, cross-dated, measured, and a master chronology was created for each site. The correlation between ring width index and Palmer drought severity index (PDSI), precipitation and temperature was calculated with each siteâ s master chronology. There was a significant positive correlation between PDSI and ring width index during the growing season for a majority of the year, and a significant positive correlation between precipitation and ring width index during the growing season. Even though the master chronologies originated from eight separate sites, there were common dendroclimatic responses across seven of the sites. Canonical correspondence analysis of site characteristics and ring width index indicate that the master chronologies can be grouped into three separate chronologies based upon similar environmental and site characteristic responses.
- Masters Theses