The ancient blue oak woodlands of California: Longevity and hydroclimatic history

TitleThe ancient blue oak woodlands of California: Longevity and hydroclimatic history
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsStahle D.W, Griffin R.D, Meko D.M, Therrell M.D, Edmondson J.R, Cleaveland M.K, Stahle L.N, Burnette D.J, Abatzoglou J.T, Redmond K.T, Dettinger MD, Cayan DR
JournalEarth Interactions
Date Published2013/08
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number1087-3562
Accession NumberWOS:000323270100001
KeywordsAncient blue oak woodland; atmospheric rivers; climate; drought; estuary; growth; precipitation; Quercus douglasii; quercus-douglasii; reconstructions; rings; San Francisco Bay salinity; Tree-ring analysis; variability; western united-states; winter

Ancient blue oak trees are still widespread across the foothills of the Coast Ranges, Cascades, and Sierra Nevada in California. The most extensive tracts of intact old-growth blue oak woodland appear to survive on rugged and remote terrain in the southern Coast Ranges and on the foothills west and southwest of Mt. Lassen. In the authors' sampling of old-growth stands, most blue oak appear to have recruited to the canopy in the middle to late nineteenth century. The oldest living blue oak tree sampled was over 459 years old, and several dead blue oak logs had over 500 annual rings. Precipitation sensitive tree-ring chronologies up to 700 years long have been developed from old blue oak trees and logs. Annual ring-width chronologies of blue oak are strongly correlated with cool season precipitation totals, streamflow in the major rivers of California, and the estuarine water quality of San Francisco Bay. A new network of 36 blue oak chronologies records spatial anomalies in growth that arise from latitudinal changes in the mean storm track and location of land-falling atmospheric rivers. These long, climate-sensitive blue oak chronologies have been used to reconstruct hydroclimatic history in California and will help to better understand and manage water resources. The environmental history embedded in blue oak growth chronologies may help justify efforts to conserve these authentic old-growth native woodlands.

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