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The surprising recovery of red spruce growth shows links to decreased acid deposition and elevated temperature

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Kosiba, Alexandra M.; Schaberg, Paul G.; Rayback, Shelly A.; Hawley, Gary J.

Year Published

2018

Publication

Science of The Total Environment

Abstract

Following growth declines and increased mortality linked to acid deposition-induced calcium depletion, red spruce (Picea rubens Sarg.) in the northeastern United States are experiencing a recovery. We found that more than 75% of red spruce trees and 90% of the plots examined in this study exhibited increasing growth since 2001. To understand this change, we assessed the relationship between red spruce radial growth and factors that may influence growth: tree age and diameter, stand dynamics, plot characteristics (elevation, slope, aspect, geographical position), and a suite of environmental variables (temperature, precipitation, climate and precipitation indices (degree days, SPEI [standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index], and acid deposition [SO42−, NO3−, pH of rainfall, cation:anion ratio of rainfall]) for 52 plots (658 trees) from five states (spanning 2.5°N × 5°W). Examining the growth relationships from 1925 to 2012, we found that while there was variability in response to climate and acid deposition (limited to 1980–2012) by elevation and location, plot and tree factors did not adequately explain growth. Higher temperatures outside the traditional growing season (e.g., fall, winter, and spring) were related to increased growth. Nitrogen deposition (1980–2012) was associated with lower growth, but the strength of this relationship has lessened over time. Overall, we predict sustained favorable conditions for red spruce in the near term as acid deposition continues to decline and non-traditional growing season (fall through spring) temperaturesmoderate, provided that overall temperatures and precipitation remain adequate for growth.

Citation

Kosiba, Alexandra M.; Schaberg, Paul G.; Rayback, Shelly A.; Hawley, Gary J. 2018. The surprising recovery of red spruce growth shows links to decreased acid deposition and elevated temperature. Science of The Total Environment. 637-638: 1480-1491. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.05.010.

Last updated on: May 24, 2018