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Early indications of drought impacts on forests in the southeastern United States

Publication: The Forestry Chronicle
29 October 2015


In the southeastern United States, drought can pose a significant threat to forests by reducing the amount of available water, thereby stressing trees. Destructive changes in crown conditions provide the first visible indication of a problem in a forested area, making it a useful indicator for problems within an ecosystem. Forest Health and Monitoring (FHM) and Palmer's Drought Severity Index (PDSI) data from 11 states in the southeastern United States were obtained in an effort to determine the role that drought, forest type, and ecoregion have in indicating differences in crown dieback. Analyses were conducted by species groups using classification and regression tree (CART) analysis. The greatest amount of total relative crown dieback occurred in red oak (18%), followed by other hardwoods (14%), and white oak (11%). Relative crown dieback varied by forest type and ecoregion with a relationship to drought in both red oak and white oak. This information will be useful for focusing future research and modeling efforts to predict forest health conditions affected by changing climate variables.


Dans le sud-est des États-Unis, la sécheresse peut représenter une menace sérieuse pour les forêts en réduisant la quantité d'eau disponible, et en conséquence provoquer un stress chez les arbres. Des changements destructifs au niveau des cimes constituent la première indication visible d'un problème dans les régions boisées, devenant de ce fait un précieux indicateur des problèmes affectant un écosystème. Les données tirées de l'indice de santé et de suivi des forêts (FHM) et de l'indice de sévérité de sécheresse de Palmer (PDSI) de onze états du sud-est des États-Unis ont été colligées dans le but de déterminer le rôle joué par la sécheresse, par le type de forêt et par l’écorégion au niveau des différences rattachées au dépérissement des cimes. Les analyses ont été menées par groupes d'espèces au moyen d'une analyse des arbres de classification et de régression (CART). Le plus fort niveau de dépérissement relatif total des cimes a été retrouvé chez le chêne rouge (18%), suivi des autres feuillus (14%) et du chêne blanc (11%). Le dépérissement relatif des cimes variait selon le type de forêt et l’écorégion et en fonction de la sécheresse affectant le chêne rouge et le chêne blanc. Cette information permettra de concentrer les efforts futurs de recherche et de modélisation visant à prédire les conditions de santé des forêts affectées par des changements climatiques.

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Information & Authors


Published In

cover image The Forestry Chronicle
The Forestry Chronicle
Volume 91Number 04August 2015
Pages: 376 - 383


Published online: 29 October 2015

Key Words

  1. Crown dieback
  2. Forest health
  3. Drought
  4. CART


  1. Dépérissement de la cime
  2. santé des forêts
  3. sécheresse
  4. CART



Michael K. Crosby
Shorter University-Department of Natural Science, 315 Shorter Avenue, Rome, GA 30165 USA
Zhaofei Fan
Auburn University-School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, SFWS 3219 602 Duncan Dr. Auburn, AL 36849 USA
Martin A. Spetich
Arkansas Forestry Sciences Laboratory, U.S. Forest Service, Southern Research Station, P.O. Box 1270, Hot Springs, Arkansas 71902 USA
Theodor D. Leininger
USDA Forest Service, Center for Bottomland Hardwoods Research, P.O. Box 227 432 Stoneville Road, Stoneville, MS 38776-0227 USA
Xingang Fan
Western Kentucky University, Department of Geography and Geology, 1906 College Heights Blvd., #31066 Bowling Green, KY 42101-1066 USA

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