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  1. The longleaf pine ( Pinus palustris Mill.) and related ecosystem is an icon of the southeastern United States (US). Once covering an estimated 37 million ha from Texas to Florida to Virginia, the near-extirpation of, and subsequent restoration efforts for, the species has been well-documented over the past ca. 100 years. Although longleaf pine is one of the longest-lived tree species in the southeastern US—with documented ages of over 400 years—its use has not been reviewed in the field of dendrochronology. In this paper, we review the utility of longleaf pine tree-ring data within the applications of four primary, topical research areas: climatology and paleoclimate reconstruction, fire history, ecology, and archeology/cultural studies. Further, we highlight knowledge gaps in these topical areas, for which we introduce the Longleaf Tree-Ring Network (LTRN). The overarching purpose of the LTRN is to coalesce partners and data to expand the scientific use of longleaf pine tree-ring data across the southeastern US. As a first example of LTRN analytics, we show that the development of seasonwood chronologies (earlywood width, latewood width, and total width) enhances the utility of longleaf pine tree-ring data, indicating the value of these seasonwood metrics for future studies. We find that atmore »21 sites distributed across the species’ range, latewood width chronologies outperform both their earlywood and total width counterparts in mean correlation coefficient (RBAR = 0.55, 0.46, 0.52, respectively). Strategic plans for increasing the utility of longleaf pine dendrochronology in the southeastern US include [1] saving remnant material ( e.g., stumps, logs, and building construction timbers) from decay, extraction, and fire consumption to help extend tree-ring records, and [2] developing new chronologies in LTRN spatial gaps to facilitate broad-scale analyses of longleaf pine ecosystems within the context of the topical groups presented.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 2, 2024
  2. Climate change is increasing fire activity in the western United States, which has the potential to accelerate climate-induced shifts in vegetation communities. Wildfire can catalyze vegetation change by killing adult trees that could otherwise persist in climate conditions no longer suitable for seedling establishment and survival. Recently documented declines in postfire conifer recruitment in the western United States may be an example of this phenomenon. However, the role of annual climate variation and its interaction with long-term climate trends in driving these changes is poorly resolved. Here we examine the relationship between annual climate and postfire tree regeneration of two dominant, low-elevation conifers (ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir) using annually resolved establishment dates from 2,935 destructively sampled trees from 33 wildfires across four regions in the western United States. We show that regeneration had a nonlinear response to annual climate conditions, with distinct thresholds for recruitment based on vapor pressure deficit, soil moisture, and maximum surface temperature. At dry sites across our study region, seasonal to annual climate conditions over the past 20 years have crossed these thresholds, such that conditions have become increasingly unsuitable for regeneration. High fire severity and low seed availability further reduced the probability of postfire regeneration.more »Together, our results demonstrate that climate change combined with high severity fire is leading to increasingly fewer opportunities for seedlings to establish after wildfires and may lead to ecosystem transitions in low-elevation ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir forests across the western United States.

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