iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Disassociating tree species associations in the eastern United States

Brice B Hanberry   

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 7, Issue 4, Pages 248-254 (2014)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor1159-007
Published: Mar 13, 2014 - Copyright © 2014 SISEF

Research Articles

Ecologists have a long history of describing species associations including oak-hickory, one of the predominant associations in the eastern United States. But historically, oak composition did not appear particularly related to hickory composition. I assessed the relevance of the oak-hickory association and other associations using older and recent (c. 1981 and 2007) USDA Forest Service surveys. For common hickory and oak species, I determined percent composition (i.e., percent of total stems ≥12.7 cm in diameter, relative density or abundance) in ecological subsections, changes in composition throughout ranges, and compared composition of oaks and hickories and other potential associations using correlation and ordination. Oaks were among the most abundant species while hickories were minor species. Hickory composition was stable while the trajectory of oak continued to decrease during the survey intervals from presettlement dominance. Rank-order correlation between oaks and hickories throughout their ranges was about the maximum as for other species (0.55 and 0.42 during the two survey periods) and in the Oak-Hickory forest region, correlation between oaks and hickories was 0.04 (older surveys) and 0.16 (recent surveys). Oaks were not associated with hickory in the “oak-hickory” forests of Missouri during the mid-1800s, nor were oaks associated with hickory more recently beyond correlations that occur between other eastern forest species. Oak-hickory association in particular is not an informative term for either historical open oak ecosystems or current eastern broadleaf forests. Mixed mesophytic associations, perhaps not best termed as an association, are eastern broadleaf forests where many tree species dominate forested ecosystems in the absence of filtering disturbance. Associations, even if species share similar traits, generally are not strong, stable in time, or extensive in space; differences between species result in different and changing distributions in response to the environment, land use, disease, and other influential factors.


Eastern Broadleaf Forests, Mixed Mesophytic, Oak-Hickory, Southern Mixed Forests, Sugar Maple-Beech

Authors’ address

Brice B Hanberry
University of Missouri, 203 Natural Resources Building, 65211 Columbia, MO (United States of America)

Corresponding author

Brice B Hanberry


Hanberry BB (2014). Disassociating tree species associations in the eastern United States. iForest 7: 248-254. - doi: 10.3832/ifor1159-007

Academic Editor

Marco Borghetti

Paper history

Received: Oct 22, 2013
Accepted: Feb 24, 2014

First online: Mar 13, 2014
Publication Date: Aug 01, 2014
Publication Time: 0.57 months

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