Dynamics of acorn production by five species of Southern Appalachian oaks
The management implications of fluctuations in acorn crop size underscore the need to better understand their patterns, causal factors, and predictability (both within a year and long term). Acorn yield has a demonstrable influence on the population dynamics of many wildlife species, both game (Eiler et al. 1989, Wentworth et al. 1992) and nongame (Hannon et al. 1987, Koenig and Mumme 1987, Smith and Scarlett 1987, Elkinton et al. 1996, Wolff 1996, McShea 2000). Wolff (1996) suggests that acorns function as a "keystone" resource in forest community dynamics, by influencing small mammal prey populations. Indeed, acorn crop size has a far-reaching influence on ecosystems. White-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) populations, which are directly influenced by acorn crop size, affect gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) populations (Elkinton et al. 1996) and even the prevalence of Lyme disease (Jones et al. 1998). Also, oak regeneration has been shown to increase following large acorn crops (Marquis et al. 1976), although a host of other factors influence seedling establishment and success (Loftis and McGee 1993). The ability to predict the size of future acorn crops (Sork et al. 1993, Koenig, Mumme, et al. 1994) and to estimate current-year production (e.g., Koenig, Knops, et al. 1994, Whitehead 1969, 1980, Graves 1980, Sharp 1958, Christisen and Kearby 1984) has received considerable attention by forest managers and researchers because of its importance to wildlife and forest regeneration.