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Changes in tree sapling composition within powerline corridors appear to be consistent with climatic changes in New York State

Authors

  • ARTEM L. TREYGER,

    1. Department of Forest and Natural Resources Management, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, 1 Forestry Drive, Syracuse, NY, USA
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  • CHRISTOPHER A. NOWAK

    1. Department of Forest and Natural Resources Management, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, 1 Forestry Drive, Syracuse, NY, USA
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A. L. Treyger, tel. +1 315 470 6575, fax +1 315 470 6535, e-mail: artem.treyger@gmail.com

Abstract

Despite emerging evidence that on-going climate change is affecting species physiology, distribution, and phenology, there are few studies that examine changes in tree sapling establishment as a response. Changes in tree species composition can be expected due to increasing temperatures, with subsequent effects on future forest compositions. This study's objective was to examine changes in relative density of tree species assemblages within powerline corridors from 1975 to 2003 in New York State. Powerline corridors in New York are commonly surrounded by forests, which creates constant tree invasion pressure within a perpetual old-field environment. This unique combination of factors allowed us to examine tree sapling establishment in a nearly constant environment over a 28-year period, utilizing manova and PCA as primary statistical analyses. Tree species dynamics varied across the four ecological provinces within New York over time. Northern pioneer species (Betula populifolia, Fraxinus americana, Prunus serotina, and Tilia americana) declined across the state over the past 28 years, while the southern pioneer species (Betula lenta, Liriodendron tulipifera, and Sassafras albidum) increased in the hot continental division. In the warm continental division, the pine-hemlock assemblage increased in the Northeastern Mixed Forest Province, while aspen-birch increased in the Adirondack Highlands Forest Province, likely due to increases in precipitation. It appears that climate change may have had some influence on tree sapling composition that could affect future vegetation management decisions and expectations in powerline rights-of-way and forests.

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