Tom Wessels, MA
Department of Environmental Studies
“Frost pockets” generally occur in concave landscapes such as basins or topographic depressions where nighttime temperatures may be substantially lower than the surrounding landscape as a result of downward drainage of cool air and radiational cooling. Such local variation in temperature may have important effects on species composition and structure, flower and fruit production, herbivory and morphological variability. I conducted a study on Mantague Plain in central New England in order to determine whether similar frost pockets may occur in topographically level areas dominated by scrub oak (Quercus ilicifolia). Although the site selected for investigation is nearly level, it exhibits a dramatic change in the height of scrub oak when moving from the edge to the center of scrub oak-dominated stands. Weekly measurements of maximum/minimum temperatures and leaf development indicate that location and minimum temperature are strongly correlated with variation in leaf phenology in scrub oak. Te results of these analyses support the hypothesis that microclimate and location have an effect on leaf phenology of scrub oak in shrub thickets on Montague Plain.