Foliar Herbivory on Understory Oaks as a Function of Forest Type and Prescribed Burning

Date of Graduation

Spring 2005


Master of Science in Biology



Committee Chair

Alexander Wait


Loss of oak seedling and sapling leaf area to insect herbivores has not been well characterized in Ozark forests, but may be a critical variable affecting current and future forest health. This study quantified loss of oak seedling and sapling leaf area to insect herbivores in recently burned or unburned Ozark forest and savanna habitat. In addition, I qualitatively related leaf loss to plant water status, leaf nitrogen (N) concentrations, light, and general environmental conditions. The study took place within the Drury Conservation Area, located in Taney County, Missouri. Study sites representing unburned and burned savanna and forest habitats were established in 2003. Twelve belt transects with a mean area of 250 meters-square were established and I measured foliar area and damage on 180 oak plants (<1.5 m height). On a subset of plants (n = 75 per habitat) I measured plant water status, foliar N concentration, and general environmental conditions (air temperature, relative humidity, soil temperature, soil moisture, solar radiation, and wind speed). Foliar area was significantly greater in the savanna habitat than the forested habitat. However, foliar damage was significantly greater in the forested habitat, with the greatest amount of foliar damage occurring in the burned forest. Oak plants in the forested habitat were less water stressed and had greater foliar N concentration than oak plants in the savanna habitat. These data suggest that Ozark oak forest habitats are potentially more susceptible to herbivore damage than savanna habitats, especially following a prescribed burn.


Quercus spp., oak forest, oak savanna, herbivore damage, water stress, foliar nitrogen

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© Pamela L. Lucas