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  1. Rejmanek, Marcel (Ed.)
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2023
  2. Abstract

    The oak (Quercus) species of eastern North America are declining in abundance, threatening the many socioecological benefits they provide. We discuss the mechanisms responsible for their loss, many of which are rooted in the prevailing view that oaks are drought tolerant. We then synthesize previously published data to comprehensively review the drought response strategies of eastern US oaks, concluding that whether or not eastern oaks are drought tolerant depends firmly on the metric of success. Although the anisohydric strategy of oaks sometimes confers a gas exchange and growth advantage, it exposes oaks to damaging hydraulic failure, such that oaks are just as or more likely to perish during drought than neighboring species. Consequently, drought frequency is not a strong predictor of historic patterns of oak abundance, although long-term climate and fire frequency are strongly correlated with declines in oak dominance. The oaks’ ability to survive drought may become increasingly difficult in a drier future.

  3. Plant-fungal symbioses play critical roles in vegetation dynamics and nutrient cycling, modulating the impacts of global changes on ecosystem functioning. Here, we used forest inventory data consisting of more than 3 million trees to develop a spatially resolved “mycorrhizal tree map” of the contiguous United States. We show that abundances of the two dominant mycorrhizal tree groups—arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) and ectomycorrhizal trees—are associated primarily with climate. Further, we show that anthropogenic influences, primarily nitrogen (N) deposition and fire suppression, in concert with climate change, have increased AM tree dominance during the past three decades in the eastern United States. Given that most AM-dominated forests in this region are underlain by soils with high N availability, our results suggest that the increasing abundance of AM trees has the potential to induce nutrient acceleration, with critical consequences for forest productivity, ecosystem carbon and nutrient retention, and feedbacks to climate change.
  4. Ecological communities often exhibit greater resistance to biological invasions when these communities consist of species that are not closely related. The effective size of this resistance, however, varies geographically. Here we investigate the drivers of this heterogeneity in the context of known contributions of native trees to the resistance of forests in the eastern United States of America to plant invasions. Using 42,626 spatially referenced forest community observations, we quantified spatial heterogeneity in relationships between evolutionary relatedness amongst native trees and both invasive plant species richness and cover. We then modelled the variability amongst the 91 ecological sections of our study area in the slopes of these relationships in response to three factors known to affect invasion and evolutionary relationships –environmental harshness (as estimated via tree height), relative tree density and environmental variability. Invasive species richness and cover declined in plots having less evolutionarily related native trees. The degree to which they did, however, varied considerably amongst ecological sections. This variability was explained by an ecological section’s mean maximum tree height and, to a lesser degree, SD in maximum tree height ( R 2 GLMM = 0.47 to 0.63). In general, less evolutionarily related native tree communities better resisted overallmore »plant invasions in less harsh forests and in forests where the degree of harshness was more homogenous. These findings can guide future investigations aimed at identifying the mechanisms by which evolutionary relatedness of native species affects exotic species invasions and the environmental conditions under which these effects are most pronounced.« less
  5. Reactive nitrogen oxides (NOy; NOy= NO + NO2+ HONO) decrease air quality and impact radiative forcing, yet the factors responsible for their emission from nonpoint sources (i.e., soils) remain poorly understood. We investigated the factors that control the production of aerobic NOyin forest soils using molecular techniques, process-based assays, and inhibitor experiments. We subsequently used these data to identify hotspots for gas emissions across forests of the eastern United States. Here, we show that nitrogen oxide soil emissions are mediated by microbial community structure (e.g., ammonium oxidizer abundances), soil chemical characteristics (pH and C:N), and nitrogen (N) transformation rates (net nitrification). We find that, while nitrification rates are controlled primarily by chemoautotrophic ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA), the production of NOyis mediated in large part by chemoautotrophic ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB). Variation in nitrification rates and nitrogen oxide emissions tracked variation in forest communities, as stands dominated by arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) trees had greater N transformation rates and NOyfluxes than stands dominated by ectomycorrhizal (ECM) trees. Given mapped distributions of AM and ECM trees from 78,000 forest inventory plots, we estimate that broadleaf forests of the Midwest and the eastern United States as well as the Mississippi River corridor may be considered hotspotsmore »of biogenic NOyemissions. Together, our results greatly improve our understanding of NOyfluxes from forests, which should lead to improved predictions about the atmospheric consequences of tree species shifts owing to land management and climate change.

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