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Potential role of soil calcium in recovery of paper birch following ice storm injury in Vermont, USA

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Halman, Joshua M.; Schaberg, Paul G.; Hawley, Gary J.; Hansen, Christopher F.

Year Published

2011

Publication

Forest Ecology and Management. 261: 1539-1545.

Abstract

In recent years, an increased number of mature paper birch (Betula papyrifera Marsh.) and heart-leafed paper birch (B. papyrifera var. cordifolia (Regel) Fern.) in northeastern United States forests have exhibited decline symptoms including foliar loss, reduced fine branching, and tree mortality. We assessed crown health, radial growth, and available soil cations in 2006 as a preliminary assessment of factors that may be influencing paper birch decline. Tree rings began to decrease in width in 1998--the year of a severe region-wide ice storm. All trees (regardless of their current decline status) experienced reduced growth starting in 1998 and tree growth continued to decrease for two years following the ice storm. After this generalized growth decrease, trees that now have vigorous crowns showed a marked increase in growth, whereas trees that now have low crown vigor did not rebound in growth, but instead exhibited a significantly higher incidence of locally absent annual rings. Extractable soil-aluminum (Al), a phytotoxic element mobilized by acid deposition, was significantly higher in soils associated with declining trees compared to those adjacent to vigorous trees. Higher soil calcium (Ca) availability was associated with both vigorous crowns and increased radial growth following the 1998 ice storm. Furthermore, increased soil Ca availability was negatively correlated to the percentage of declining trees, and positively related to increased radial growth, whereas elevation was not significantly associated with either parameter. Although previously overlooked as a factor influencing paper birch recovery from injury, we found that available soil Ca was linked to crown vigor and rebounds in growth following an inciting event.

Citation

Halman, Joshua M.; Schaberg, Paul G.; Hawley, Gary J.; Hansen, Christopher F. 2011. Potential role of soil calcium in recovery of paper birch following ice storm injury in Vermont, USA. Forest Ecology and Management. 261: 1539-1545. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2011.01.045.

Last updated on: March 25, 2011