An Analysis of Atlantic White Cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides (L.) B.S.P.) Tree Rings as Indicators of Ghost Forest Development in a Globally Threatened Ecosystem

James M. Doyle, Kendal E. Earley, Robert B. Atkinson
2021 Forests  
Atlantic White Cedar (AWC) swamps are a globally threatened type of wetland ecosystem and are a new form of ghost forest in the mid-Atlantic region of the US. Hydrogeomorphic regimes foster peat formation, resulting in unique biodiversity and carbon sequestration services. Our sites include regimes that are exposed to sea-level rise and storm-driven seawater intrusion, yet other sites are protected by higher elevations. In this study, we evaluated climatic variables to discern differences in
more » ... e ring formation as an indicator of growth among nine stands including micro-tidal, oligohaline sites as well as other protected areas which served as a control. Standard dendrochronological techniques were used, and series were divided into two sub-chronologies, 1895 to 1971 (early) and 1972 to 2018 (recent). AWC growth in response to precipitation parameters, e.g., Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI), were largely non-significant but were somewhat reversed among sub-chronologies. Early correlations were primarily negatively correlated with PDSI, while recent correlations were mostly positive, which suggests that even though inundation may reduce photosynthate availability for growth, precipitation has begun to increase growth by alleviating osmotic and toxic stresses associated with seawater. Analysis of climatic variables and tree growth at the reference site found that other anthropogenic stressors associated with ditching exert a greater influence. Hurricane impacts on tree growth exhibited no lasting negative effects; however, an AWC ghost forest report from New Jersey connected mortality to a hurricane. Hydrogeomorphic regimes may delay rather than eliminate risks associated with sea-level rise and storm-driven seawater.
doi:10.3390/f12080973 fatcat:bnmmasgs5rdkzowmq7542c7gde