Linking environmental gradients, species composition, and vegetation indicators of sugar maple health in the northeastern United States
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Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 38: 1761-1774.
Sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.) decline has occurred throughout its range over the past 50 years, although decline symptoms are minimal where nutritional thresholds of Ca, Mg, and Mn are met. Here, we show that availability of these elements also controls vascular plant species composition in northern hardwood stands and we identify indicator species of these nutrient thresholds. Presence and abundance of vascular plant species and data on 35 environmental variables were collected from 86 stands in New Hampshire and Vermont (NHVT) and Pennsylvania and New York (PANY). Nonmetric multidimensional scaling ordination was used to determine which variables affected presence and abundance of species; both measures gave similar results. A base cation -- acid cation nutrient gradient on axis one accounted for 71.9% (NHVT) and 63.0% (PANY) of the variation in the nonmetric multidimensional scaling ordination. Measures of Ca, Mg, and pH formed the base end and Al, Mn, K, soil acidity, and organic matter the acid end in both subregions. In both subregions, sugar maple foliar Mg and Ca had the strongest association with the base end of axis 1; exchangeable Al in NHVT and foliar Mn in PANY were strongly associated with the acid end. McNemar's exact test and indicator species analysis were used to determine which species were present in stands that met the nutritional thresholds for Ca, Mg, and Mn foliar chemistry. McNemar's exact test identified 16 species in NHVT and PANY, 16 additional species in NHVT only, and 12 additional species in PANY only. Indicator species analysis identified a subset of these species with the highest frequency of occurrence. Indicator species could provide land managers with a diagnostic tool for determining where on the landscape sugar maple is "at risk" or likely to remain healthy in the face of stresses.
Horsley, Stephen B.; Bailey, Scott W.; Ristau, Todd E.; Long, Robert P.; Hallett, Richard A. 2008. Linking environmental gradients, species composition, and vegetation indicators of sugar maple health in the northeastern United States. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 38: 1761-1774.