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The effects of drought and disturbance on the growth and developmental instability of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.)

Posted date: May 07, 2012
Publication Year: 
Authors: Graham, John H.; Duda, Jeffrey J.; Brown, Michelle L.; Kitchen, Stanley G.; Emlen, John M.; Malol, Jagadish; Bankstahl, Elizabeth; Krzysik, Anthony J.; Balbach, Harold; Freeman, D. Carl
Publication Series: 
Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Source: Ecological Indicators. 20: 143-150.


Ecological indicators provide early warning of adverse environmental change, helping land managers adaptively manage their resources while minimizing costly remediation. In 1999 and 2000, we studied two such indicators, growth and developmental instability, of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) influenced by mechanized infantry training at Fort Benning, Georgia. Disturbed areas were used for military training; tracked and wheeled vehicles damaged vegetation and soils. Highly disturbed sites had fewer trees, diminished ground cover, warmer soils in the summer, and more compacted soils with a shallower Ahorizon. We hypothesized that disturbance would decrease the growth of needles, branches, and tree rings, increase the complexity of tree rings, and increase the developmental instability of needles. Contrary to our expectations, however, disturbance enhanced growth in the first year of the study, possibly by reducing competition. In the second year, a drought reduced growth of branches and needles, eliminating the stimulatory effect of disturbance. Growth-ring widths increased with growing-season precipitation, and decreased with growing-season temperature over the last 40 years. Disturbance had no effect on tree-ring complexity, as measured by the Hurst exponent. Within-fascicle variation of current-year needle length, a measure of developmental instability, differed among the study populations, but appeared unrelated to mechanical disturbance or drought.


Graham, John H.; Duda, Jeffrey J.; Brown, Michelle L.; Kitchen, Stanley; Emlen, John M.; Malol, Jagadish; Bankstahl, Elizabeth; Krzysik, Anthony J.; Balbach, Harold; Freeman, D. Carl. 2012. The effects of drought and disturbance on the growth and developmental instability of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.). Ecological Indicators. 20: 143-150.