Date of Award

12-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Natural Resources

Major Professor

Wayne K. Clatterbuck

Committee Members

Henri Grissino-Mayer, Thomas Waldrop, Jennifer Franklin, Amy Johnson

Abstract

Dendrochronological techniques are currently limited to the identification of visible fire scars. However, through the development of new dendrochemical techniques, the potential exists to provide insight into a broader array of pyric ecosystems. In addition, the ability to identify historic climate-growth responses provides a better understanding of the conditions under which historic fire regimes occurred.

This study provides the groundwork for the identification of a dendrochemical nutrient fire signature in xylem and identifies the climate-radial growth responses of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) on five sites in the Piedmont of South Carolina. Changes in N, P, K, Ca, Mg, Zn, Cu, Mn, Fe, S, and Na concentrations in xylem as a result of a single fire were examined. The influences of monthly mean temperature, monthly total precipitation, Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI), Palmer Hydrological Drought Index (PHDI), and selected ocean-atmospheric oscillations such as El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), and Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) on radial growth using univariate and multivariate techniques were also assessed.

Soil and duff analyses indicated sites were similar, but nutrient poor. Xylem mobile and immobile nutrient concentration analyses differed significantly through time for N, P, K, Ca, Mg, Zn, Cu, Mn, and S. No interactions were significant, thus identification of a nutrient fire signature was unsuccessful. The lack of significant interactions is attributed to the methodology used to collect the xylem nutrient samples; however, immobile nutrients indicate the most potential for future research.

Climate-tree growth analyses indicate climate plays a role in the growth of mature loblolly pine in the South Carolina Piedmont. Temperature, precipitation, PDSI, positive phase NAO, and positive phase PDO are the primary drivers of loblolly pine radial growth. Temporal consistency results suggest drought sensitivity increases with tree age. Unlike the climate variables, the relationships between ocean-atmospheric oscillations and radial growth appear to be more cyclical in nature and only influence growth in positive phases.

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