This study documents 25 y of change in the abundance of Quercus rubra (northern red oak) and Quercus alba (white oak), in a previous chestnut (Castanea castanea)-oak forest in the Southern Appalachians of the eastern U.S.A. Spatially explicit data from 1983–1984 and 2007–2008 of individually mapped trees on two plots in southwestern Virginia were used to examine how the basal area and density of all tree species changed, with specific attention to recruitment, growth, and mortality patterns of Q. rubra and Q. alba. Since the 1980s there has been an increase in the number of shade tolerant trees, primarily Acer pensylvanicum (striped maple), and a decrease in the number of shade intolerant and intermediate shade tolerant trees, including both Q. rubra and Q. alba. We found a negative correlation between A. pensylvanicum abundance and Quercus seedling abundance and a positive correlation between light availability and Quercus seedling abundance. Both Q. rubra and Q. alba have experienced self-thinning, and the previous oak-chestnut forest will likely become increasingly dominated by maples and other shade tolerant species.
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