The pulsed, synchronous mass-production of seeds in tree species is a phenomenon called masting , which is an important event that occurs in forested ecosystems (Koenig and Knops 2005). Northern red oak (Quercus rubra) masting events, in northern hardwood forests, can provide abundant critical food sources for animals preparing to overwinter. Wildlife such as mice (Peromyscus spp.), squirrels (Sciurus spp.), black bear (Ursus americanus), ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus), and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) can increase their survivability and fecundity during mast years (Koenig and Knops 2005, Lashley et al. 2009, Gillen and Hellgren 2013). The ecology of masting trees within an ecosystem is important to study as they have cascading effects (Otsfeld et al. 1996, Gillen and Hellgren 2013, Lobo and Millar 2013). During years when seed yield is below normal, the decline in food production can result in reduced granivore populations, but also increases the chances of germination during the next masting event (Schnurr et al. 2002). Increased germination results from a lag in functional response time among granivores, an effective predator satiation technique (Schnurr et al. 2002). Oaks are greatly valued by many species, including humans. They are selectively harvested for high quality timber. The dependence of wildlife for food and habitat, and the human desire for quality timber attests to the need to study oaks, acorn production, and the effects on wildlife.
Student poster, Center for Earth and Environmental Science, SUNY Plattsburgh