Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): Cathryn GreenbergTara L. Keyser; James Speer
    Date: 2011
    Source: Natural Areas Journal 31(2):131-137
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    PDF: Download Publication  (260.88 KB)


    The sustainability of eastern oak-dominated forests is threatened by high oak mortality rates and widespread oak regeneration failure, and presents a challenge to natural area managers. We tracked the rate and cause of mortality of 287 mature oak trees of five species for 15 years to determine the temporal patterns and sources of mortality. We observed a 15.3% total mortality rate during the study period. Mortality was due to oak decline (7.3% of trees) and high-intensity wind events (6.6% of trees). Decline-related mortality was gradual, averaging 0.5% annually. Windthrow was episodic, occurring during hurricane-related weather events in 1995 and 2004. Within species, total mortality was disproportionately high for scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea Muenchh) (41.2%) compared to other species in the red oak group (13.8% for northern red oak (Q. rubra L.); 12.5% for black oak (Q. velutina Lam.)) or the white oak group (10.4% for white oak (Q. alba L.); 5.7% for chestnut oak (Q. prinus L.)). Decline-related mortality was highest for scarlet oak (15.7%) followed by black oak (8.3%), white oak (7.5%), northern red oak (6.9%), and chestnut oak (2.3%). Within the red oak group, the average age of decline-affected and surviving trees did not differ, but average dbh of decline-affected trees was smaller. Decline-affected trees in the white oak group were on average older, but average dbh did not differ from surviving trees. Wind-related mortality also was higher for scarlet oak (21.6%) than for northern red oak (5.2%), black oak (4.2%), white oak (3.0%) or chestnut oak (2.3%). Windthrown red oaks were smaller than survivors, but windthrown trees in the white oak group did not differ in size from survivors.Average age did not differ between windthrown and surviving trees for either group. Oak mortality rates observed in this study, coupled with oak regeneration failure, could result in a substantial reduction in the proportion of mature canopy oaks and change the relative abundance of oak species in southern Appalachian forests over the long-term.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Greenberg, Cathryn H.; Keyser, Tara L.; Speer, James H. 2011. Temporal Patterns of Oak Mortality in a Southern Appalachian Forest (1991-2006). Natural Areas Journal 31(2):131-137.


    Google Scholar


    mortality patterns, oak decline, oak-dominated forest, oak mortality, windthrow

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page