Where are the acorns? Forestry officials concerned

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Have you noticed a lack of acorns on the ground this autumn? State forestry officials have — and it has some concerned.

“Acorn production in Virginia in 2013 was low – comparable to the previous low in 2008. The white oak crop appeared to uniformly fail across the state,” according to Virginia Department of Forestry official Gary Norman. “The impacts of acorns on wildlife populations are extensive and complex. And they are most dramatic where there is little diversity of habitat types and few alternative food sources to acorns.”

That means this year’s light acorn crop might force animals like white-tailed deer, black bear and wild turkey into neighborhoods in search of food. Those animals rely on acorns for fat, soluble carbohydrates and energy.

“Oftentimes the search for food creates situations that bring wildlife closer into residential areas to find human-related food sources resulting in unwanted interactions between animals and people,” Norman said.

So what is causing this year’s acorn shortage? Forestry officials have a theory.

“While it is impossible to pinpoint one specific cause that would explain the acorn crop for an entire region in a given year, there are many factors – such as weather, insects and disease – that collectively influence acorn development from the time of flower initiation to acorn maturity,” the Department of Forestry wrote.

One cause could be nature’s cycles. Research shows following bumper crops, like 2012, lighter crops allow trees to restore their natural resources.

“In other words, a large crop one year may reduce the trees’ resources resulting in lower production the following year(s). Since 2012 was a bumper crop of acorns for much of Virginia, this could be another explanation for this year’s light crop. The overall consensus seems to be that there are inherent cycles of reproduction that are modified by the impact of weather conditions in a particular location,”  Virginia Department of Forestry Research Program Manager Jerre Creighton said.

The department said the emergence of cicadas this year likely had no impact on acorns.

“I don’t think they have anything to do with it,” VDOF Forest Health Program Manager Dr. Chris Asaro said. “The mast failure seems to be a lot more widespread across the state, including areas that saw no cicadas. Plus, cicada activity was pretty spotty even in the outbreak areas, yet mast failures still seem to be occurring just about everywhere.”

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10 comments

  • jrcat7

    Let me see if I have this correct… The oak tress got together and conspired to produce a bumper crop of acorns in 2012 and to greatly limit their production in 2013?

    You may be giving the oak trees to much credit for their intelligence.

    Have you considered looking at the differences between 2012 and 2013…like the substantial increase in rain for the first 9 months of 2013 compared to 2012?

  • Morning Dew

    jrcat7, Your theory of increased rainfall definitely is a possibility and should be researched, but I don’t think they suggest that the trees all got together. More likely, the trees used many of their resources in 2012 and don’t have those same resources this year.

  • jrcat7

    I have 2 albino squirrels that do a great job of handling the acorns in my yard. They seem to be as busy as they’ve been in recent years.

  • Art Costa

    There must be some unrest in the forest. It must be the maples fault, for they think the oaks are too lofty and grab up all the light. But the oaks can’t help their feelings if they like the way they’re made and wonder why the maples can’t be happy in their shade. As the maples shout oppression, the oaks just shake their heads. So the maples formed a union and demanded equal rights, “these oaks are just too greedy, we will make them give us light.” Now there’s no more oak oppression, for they passed a noble law, the trees are all kept equal by hatchet, axe and saw.

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