An Elevation Comparison of Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) at the St. Jones Reserve, Dover, DE

Authors: Sydney Hall*, Wesley College
Topics: Environmental Science
Keywords: dendroecology, salinization, difference chronology
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Salinization from sea level rise and changes of hydrologic inputs can have detrimental impacts on estuarine coastal forests like those at the St. Jones Reserve in Dover, Delaware. These areas face potential forest loss through retreat and inland marsh migration. The objective of this study is to use dendrochronology, the study of environmental conditions through the analysis of annual tree rings, to explore growth relationships and gain a better understanding of salt intrusion impacts on tree growth and mortality along the St. Jones River. By studying the tree Eastern red cedar, a common species found in Delaware Estuary coastal forests, chronologies from two elevation gradients were developed, creating a difference chronology. The first series consists of trees growing near the marsh-forest ecotone boundary with clear signs of stress from salt intrusion, and the second includes trees growing at higher elevation with no apparent signs of salt induced stress. We then subtracted the salt stressed chronology from the upland chronology to create a dataset that represents the impact of salt stress. In future research, this difference chronology will be compared to water level, water quality, and climatic data to further understand the relationship between growth conditions and the dynamic environment of coastal forests.

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