Forest Ecology

Tracking Change through Time in Oak Ecosystems

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Forest ecosystems are constantly changing, and no two days or years are ever the same. Some of the changes are natural, random variability due to fluctuations in weather or seed availability, while others (such as changes in forest composition) are gradual and directional. Other changes, such as those arising from fire, logging, or drought, may be immediately evident but have long-term consequences. Constant monitoring at a variety of levels and scales is essential to separate the natural variability from the long-term effects of management.  

Building on the work of past scientists and natural resources staff at The Morton Arboretum, the project team is implementing a multitiered monitoring approach in the Arboretum’s East Woods. This includes intensively monitored plots where the team measures below-canopy temperature, humidity, soil moisture, and light availability and tracks changes in individual tree growth and the total plant community throughout the growing season.

The detailed seasonal data that is collected at a few locations is complemented with less frequent full forest inventories that cover the extent of different community types and management strategies represented in the East Woods. Data collected will be used to help guide management on Arboretum property as well as serve as a model for monitoring and management in the region.


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