Oak decline and red oak borer outbreak: impact in upland oak-hickory forests of Arkansas, USA
Oak-hickory forests in the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas recently experienced an episode of oak mortality in concert with an outbreak of the red oak borer (Enaphalodes rufulus (Haldeman) (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae)). We utilized data from the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program of the USDA Forest Service to explore changes in percent red oak (Quercus subgenus Erythrobalanus) mortality as a function of standing trees, basal area and stem density during and after the recent borer outbreak throughout the state of Arakansas. Mean red oak mortality levels in Arkansas FIA oak-hickory plots that were sampled both during and after the borer outbreak increased from 19 ± 3 to 34 ± 4 per cent of standing red oaks, resulting in significantly reduced red oak basal area and stem density in these stands. Mean size of red oaks did not change significantly during this time period, implying that all size clases experienced mortality. After red oak borer populations subsided, oak-hickory survey plots experienced increases in red oak mortality levels during a drought year (2006) and after an ice storm (2009), which suggests that these stress events, in addition to prior red oak borer infestation, could have had some influence on tree mortality.