Quercus species differ in water and nutrient characteristics in a resource-limited fall-line sandhill habitat. Academic Article uri icon


  • We compared co-occurring mature Quercus laevis Walt. (turkey oak), Q. margaretta Ashe (sand post oak) and Q. incana Bartr. (bluejack oak) trees growing in resource-limited sandhill habitats of the southeastern United States for water and nutrient characteristics. The Quercus spp. differed in their distribution along soil water and nutrient gradients, and in their access to and use of water, even though the study year was wetter than average with no mid-season drought. Quercus laevis had the greatest access to soil water (least negative pre-dawn water potential, psi(pd)) and the most conservative water-use strategy based on its relatively low stomatal conductance (g(s)), high instantaneous water-use efficiency (WUE), least negative midday water potential (psy(md)) and high leaf specific hydraulic conductance (K(L)). Quercus margaretta had the least conservative water-use characteristics, exhibiting relatively high g(s), low instantaneous WUE, most negative psi(md), and low K(L). Quercus margaretta also had a low photosynthetic nitrogen-use efficiency (PNUE), but a high leaf phosphorus concentration. Quercus incana had the poorest access to soil water, but intermediate water-use characteristics and leaf nutrient characteristics more similar to those of Q. laevis. There were no species differences for photosynthesis (A), leaf nitrogen on an area basis, or seasonally integrated WUE (delta13C). Both A and g(s) were positively correlated for each species, but A and g(s) were generally not correlated with psi(pd), psi(md) or delta psi(pd-md). Although we found differences in resource use and resource status among these sandhill Quercus spp., the results are consistent with the interpretation that they are generally drought avoiders. Quercus laevis may have an advantage on xeric ridges because of its greater ability to access soil water and use it more conservatively compared with the other Quercus spp.

published proceedings

  • Tree Physiol

author list (cited authors)

  • Donovan, L. A., West, J. B., & McLeod, K. W.

citation count

  • 29

complete list of authors

  • Donovan, LA||West, JB||McLeod, KW

publication date

  • August 2000