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Title: How oaks respond to water limitation

Author: Allen, Michael F.;

Date: 2015

Source: Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-251. Berkeley, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station: 13-22

Publication Series: General Technical Report (GTR)

   Note: This article is part of a larger document. View the larger document

Description: Oaks are extremely resilient trees. They have persisted since the mid-Cretaceous, with life forms ranging from shrubs to large trees, from evergreen to deciduous. They have two distinct, but critical, adaptations to drought that make this "mesic" taxon adaptable to dry hot environments. First, they form both arbuscular and ectotrophic mycorrhizae, with a high diversity of fungi that independently evolved many times. This means that a single tree forms mycorrhizal symbioses with partners adapting to different conditions and accessing many different resources. Oaks also have deep roots. This allows access to water resources deep in the groundwater, and with hyphae that extend into the granite matrix. Thus, water can be accessed even during drought periods when surface soils are extremely dry. Fine roots and mycorrhizal hyphae persist utilizing hydraulically-lifted water, and can even take up nutrients during these extremely dry conditions. These mycorrhizal hyphae remain viable during drought periods allowing them to rapidly utilize surface precipitation from summer monsoonal events. Together, these adaptations should allow oaks to persist and even thrive under the projected climate change, unless conditions become too harsh. That remains a critical task of future research and monitoring.

Keywords: anthropocene, drought, mycorrhiza, nitrogen, nutrient, oak, root

Publication Notes:

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  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.



Allen, Michael F. 2015. How oaks respond to water limitation. In: Standiford, Richard B.; Purcell, Kathryn L., tech. cords. Proceedings of the seventh California oak symposium: managing oak woodlands in a dynamic world. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-251. Berkeley, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station: 13-22.


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