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Early indications of drought impacts on forests in the southeastern United States

Michael K. Crosby, Zhaofei Fan, Martin A. Spetich, Theodor D. Leininger, Xingang Fan
Forestry chronicle 2015 v.91 no.4 pp. 376-383
climate change, climatic factors, dieback, drought, ecoregions, ecosystems, forest health, forest types, hardwood, models, monitoring, regression analysis, trees
In the southeastern United States, drought can pose a significant threat to forests by reducing the amount of available water, thereby stressing trees. Destructive changes in crown conditions provide the first visible indication of a problem in a forested area, making it a useful indicator for problems within an ecosystem. Forest Health and Monitoring (FHM) and Palmer's Drought Severity Index (PDSI) data from 11 states in the southeastern United States were obtained in an effort to determine the role that drought, forest type, and ecoregion have in indicating differences in crown dieback. Analyses were conducted by species groups using classification and regression tree (CART) analysis. The greatest amount of total relative crown dieback occurred in red oak (18%), followed by other hardwoods (14%), and white oak (11%). Relative crown dieback varied by forest type and ecoregion with a relationship to drought in both red oak and white oak. This information will be useful for focusing future research and modeling efforts to predict forest health conditions affected by changing climate variables.