Longleaf Pine Cone-Radial Growth Relationships in the Southeastern U.S.A.

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Biological Sciences


Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences


Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) cones have been counted annually by the United States Forest Service (USFS) at eleven locations throughout the species’ range since 1958. These data have been useful for understanding spatiotemporal patterns in longleaf pine cone production, and are beneficial in timing regeneration efforts. Variations in annual mast (i.e. seed crop) are known to influence ring widths in numerous tree species, yet this relationship is poorly understood for longleaf pine. This research examines the relationship between longleaf pine cone data and tree-ring growth from trees sampled in the multi-decadal USFS cone-crop study. We examined cone–radial growth relationships using individual tree-ring data and proprietary cone data for each tree from six sites in four locations in the southeastern USA. We found that longleaf pine cones were correlated with basal area increment growth (BAI) over the three-year cone-development cycle. Low BAI years were more frequently associated with above-average cone crop and BAI during years that coincided with the largest cone-crop class (bumper, > 100 cones per tree) were statistically less than any other cone class. We prepared linear models that predicted radial growth using PDSI and cones as predictors, and found that including cones in the models did not improve adjusted R2 values. We conclude that while cone production is inversely related to radial growth, the combination of infrequent bumper years and the concentration of cone production by a few trees per stand, creates an environment where radial-growth chronologies assembled from longleaf pine for dendroclimatic purposes are unlikely to be significantly influenced by reproductive strain.

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