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Title: Enemy release from beech bark disease coincides with upslope shift of American beech
Upslope shifts in plant distributions are often attributed to warming climate and lengthening of the growing season; however, biotic interactions may also contribute. The impacts of pests and pathogens are often sensitive to climate change and can vary along the climatic gradient associated with elevation. American beech ( Fagus grandifolia) has moved upslope throughout the northeastern United States. Meanwhile, beech growth and longevity have decreased as a result of beech bark disease (BBD), a decline disease caused by the introduced European felted beech scale insect ( Cryptococcus fagisuga) and native fungi from the genus Neonectria. Within a forested landscape spanning 250–1150 m elevation, we examined the relationships between elevation, beech demography and BBD to explore whether release from BBD at higher elevation may contribute to the upslope expansion of beech. Beech has shifted upslope at a rate of 1 m⋅year −1 coincident with lower mortality, higher recruitment, faster growth, lower BBD severity, and higher sapling densities at higher elevations. We suggest that climatic constraints on the beech scale insect at high elevations has led to a lower impact of BBD, which contributed to higher rates of beech growth, survival, and recruitment and in turn facilitated the regional upslope shift of beech.
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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Canadian Journal of Forest Research
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
1224 to 1233
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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