Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Red spruce reviving in New England, but why?

Scientists surprised to find red spruce thriving, now looking for cause of historic growth rate

In the 1970s, red spruce was the forest equivalent of a canary in the coal mine, signaling that acid rain was damaging forests and that some species, especially red spruce, were particularly sensitive to this human induced damage.

In the course of studying the lingering effects of acid rain and whether trees stored less carbon as a result of winter injury, U.S. Forest Service and University of Vermont scientists came up with a surprising result – three decades later, the canary is feeling much better.

Decline in red spruce has been attributed to damage that trees sustain in winter, when foliage predisposed to injury by exposure to acid rain experiences freezing injury and dies. Paul Schaberg, a research plant physiologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station in Burlington, Vt., and partners studied red spruce trees in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. They found that the influence of a single damaging winter injury event in 2003 continued to slow tree growth in New England for 3 years, longer than had been expected, and had a significant impact on carbon storage.

They also found something they did not expect.

“The shocking thing is that these trees are doing remarkably well now,” said Schaberg, a co-author on the study. Researchers found that diameter growth is now the highest ever recorded for red spruce, indicating that it is now growing at levels almost two times the average for the last 100 years, a growth rate never before achieved by the trees examined. “It raises the question ‘why?’” Schaberg said.

The theories that Schaberg and his colleagues are eager to test include whether the red spruce turn-around can be credited to reductions in pollution made possible by the Clean Air Act of 1990, which helped reduce sulfur and nitrogen pollution. Another possibility is that red spruce may be one of nature’s winners in the face of climate change. For red spruce, warmer winters mean less damage to foliage, which limits growth. Questions for future research also include whether the historic growth rate will continue or whether it will plateau.

The rebound in red spruce growth is described in a study co-authored by Schaberg with Alexandra Kosiba, Gary Hawley and Christopher Hansen, all from the University of Vermont. The study, “Quantifying the legacy of foliar winter injury on woody aboveground carbon sequestration of red spruce trees,” was published earlier this year in the journal Forest Ecology and Management and is available online at:

“Forest Service science was at the forefront in identifying acid rain and its impacts, and it is enormously gratifying to be at the forefront of discovering this amazing turn-around in red spruce growth in New England,” said Michael T. Rains, Director of the Northern Research Station and the Forest Product Laboratory. “Whether this is a success story for pollution control or a developing story about the effects of a changing climate, we are not yet sure."

In addition to finding the surprising rebound in red spruce growth, Schaberg and his colleagues also answered the question they set out to answer – how did the foliar damage associated with the 2003 winter injury affect carbon storage? They found that the winter injury event reduced the growth of red spruce trees for at least 3 years and resulted in cumulative reductions across the landscape equivalent to the carbon produced by burning 280 million gallons of gasoline.

Historically, red spruce has been an important timber species in the United States. While it remains a major commercial species in Canada, in the United States acid rain and land use changes have resulted in the loss of many red spruce trees.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of our nation’s forests, amounting to 850 million acres including 100 million acres of urban forests gracing the nation’s cities, where 80 percent of Americans live. The mission of the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station is to improve people’s lives and help sustain the natural resources in the Northeast and Midwest through leading-edge science and effective information delivery.

Jane Hodgins | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Earlier flowering of modern winter wheat cultivars
20.03.2018 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

nachricht Algorithm could streamline harvesting of hand-picked crops
13.03.2018 | University of Illinois College of Engineering

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Thawing permafrost produces more methane than expected

20.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Scientists invented method of catching bacteria with 'photonic hook'

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Next Generation Cryptography

20.03.2018 | Information Technology

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>