Great Basin Naturalist


Previous work suggested that Gambel oak seedlings are rare in the northern parts of its range in Utah where summer rainfall is relatively low but should be abundant in southern parts of the range where summer rainfall is usually high. Gambel oak grades from a relatively minor component of a ponderosa pine/mixed conifer assemblage in the south to a virtually monotypic formation in the north, where it exists as long-lived clones.

Quadrat analysis in Arizona and New Mexico, within the oak zone, revealed a seedling density ranging from 120 to 1320 per hectare. We found a significant tendency of seedlings to be located on the NE (cool, shady) side of sheltering objects in the environment. Mature ponderosa pine ranged in density from ca 40 to 500 stems per hectare, whereas mature Gambel oak ranged from ca 10 to 20 genets per hectare with ca 1 to 7 ramets per clone. These results support our previous conclusion that Gambel oak in northern Utah probably became established as a minor component of a mixed pine/oak woodland at a time in mid-Holocene when summer rainfall was much higher than today.