Life cycle and masting of a recovering keystone indicator species under climate fluctuation

Listen to a brief audio clip by author Qinfeng Guo describing this publication. • Text Transcript


Ecosystem health and sustainability, to a large degree, depend on the performance of keystone or dominant species. The role of climate on population dynamics of such species has been extensively examined, especially for health indicator species. Yet the life-cycle processes and response lags for many species could complicate efforts to detect clear climate signals. Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) is such a keystone tree species in the southeastern United States that has declined in both abundance and distribution during the past century. Despite research efforts on multiple fronts, the mechanisms behind the large spatial and temporal fluctuations in cone production that affects its regeneration are largely unknown. On the basis of long-term (15–56 yr) monitoring data at 10 sites across the species’ native range, we examine the spatial and temporal patterns in cone production and possible climatic effects on those patterns using the information-theoretic approach. Cone production exhibited great variation across sites and years, and long-term data revealed a weak, ca. 3 yr cycle (4 in one case) across the native range. The effects of climate were rather complex, most likely due to a mismatch between the prolonged cone-production life-cycle process and climatic fluctuation. Spatially, sites close to each other generally showed similar physical conditions and temporal trends in cone production. Across sites within longleaf pine’s range, moderate climate conditions appear to promote cone production. At most sites, there was an increasing trend in cone production, but how such a trend might be linked to climate change requires further investigation.

Sound Research audio clip of this publication is available.

  • Citation: Guo, Qinfeng; Zarnoch, Stanley J.; Chen, Xiongwen; Brockway, Dale G. 2016. Life cycle and masting of a recovering keystone indicator species under climate fluctuation. Ecosystem Health and Sustainability. 2(6): e01226.
  • Keywords: idiosyncrasy, life history, Moran effect, Pinus palustris, regeneration, sustainability, synchrony, time lag, wavelet analysis
  • Posted Date: June 13, 2016
  • Modified Date: July 6, 2021
  • Print Publications Are No Longer Available

    In an ongoing effort to be fiscally responsible, the Southern Research Station (SRS) will no longer produce and distribute hard copies of our publications. Many SRS publications are available at cost via the Government Printing Office (GPO). Electronic versions of publications may be downloaded, printed, and distributed.

    Publication Notes

    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
    • Our online publications are scanned and captured using Adobe Acrobat. During the capture process some typographical errors may occur. Please contact the SRS webmaster if you notice any errors which make this publication unusable.
    • To view this article, download the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader.