Congratulations to SU biology alumnus, Sean Reynolds, for successfully defending his thesis and completing his M.S. degrees at Auburn University!
At a site dominated by longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) in southwestern Georgia, silvicultural plans designed to encourage ecosystem-level tolerance to climate changes - namely increased water stress - are under evaluation. One approach is to shift the hardwood component towards more xeric species, including turkey oak (Quercus laevis Walt.). Sean’s study addressed the feasibility of regenerating turkey oak seedlings in a longleaf ecosystem by investigating the relationships between overstory metrics and seedling leaf gas exchange measured over one growing season. He discovered that seedling physiological performance was negatively correlated with increased overstory levels and more stressful environmental conditions. Sean concluded that seedlings were negatively impacted by the overstory, with little evidence of facilitation. Efforts to transition a longleaf pine ecosystem towards greater drought tolerance may therefore be most effective when planting of turkey oak seedlings is concentrated in canopy openings. Such improvements in management techniques may aid in conserving this threatened ecosystem. Let us give kudos to Sean for defending his thesis and graduating with an M.S. degree!