Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Acid rain poses a previously unrecognized threat to Great Lakes sugar maples

16.12.2011
The number of sugar maples in Upper Great Lakes forests is likely to decline in coming decades, according to University of Michigan ecologists and their colleagues, due to a previously unrecognized threat from a familiar enemy: acid rain.

Over the past four decades, sugar maple abundance has declined in some regions of the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada, due largely to acidification of calcium-poor granitic soils in response to acid rain.

Sugar maple forests in the Upper Great Lakes region, in contrast, grow in calcium-rich soils. Those soils provide a buffer against soil acidification. So sugar maple forests here have largely been spared the type of damage seen in mature sugar maples of the Northeast.

But now, a U-M-led team of ecologists has uncovered a different and previously unstudied mechanism by which acid rain harms sugar maple seedlings in Upper Great Lakes forests.

The scientists have concluded that excess nitrogen from acid rain slows the microbial decay of dead maple leaves on the forest floor, resulting in a build-up of leaf litter that creates a physical barrier for seedling roots seeking soil nutrients, as well as young leaves trying to poke up through the litter to reach sunlight.

A stand of Michigan sugar maples. Photo courtesy of Sierra Patterson and Alan Talhelm"The thickening of the forest floor has become a physical barrier for seedlings to reach mineral soil or to emerge from the extra litter," said ecologist Donald Zak, a professor at the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment and co-author of an article published online Dec. 8 in the Journal of Applied Ecology. Zak is also a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

"What we've uncovered is a totally different and indirect mechanism by which atmospheric nitrogen deposition can negatively impact sugar maples," Zak said.

The new findings are the latest results from a 17-year experiment at four sugar maple stands in Michigan's lower and upper peninsulas.

By the end of this century, nitrogen deposition from acid rain is expected to more than double worldwide, due to increased burning of fossil fuels. For the last 17 years at the four Michigan sugar maple test sites, Zak and his colleagues have added sodium nitrate pellets (six times throughout the growing season, every year) to three 30-meter by 30-meter test plots at each of the four Michigan maple stands. Adding the pellets was done to simulate the amount of nitrogen deposition expected by the end of the century.

Seedling-establishment data from the nitrogen-spiked test plots were compared to the findings from a trio of nearby control plots that received no additional nitrogen. Most of the fieldwork and analysis was done by 2010 SNRE graduate Sierra Patterson, who conducted the study for her master's thesis.

A researcher at one of four sugar maple research sites in Michigan. Photo courtesy of Sierra Patterson and Alan TalhelmPatterson and her colleagues found that adding extra nitrogen increased the amount of leaf litter on the forest floor by up to 50 percent, causing a significant reduction in the successful establishment of sugar maple seedlings.

When the number of seedlings on nitrogen-supplemented treatment was compared to the number of seedlings on the no-nitrogen-added treatment, the mean abundance of second-year seedlings was 13.1 stems per square meter under ambient nitrogen deposition and 1.6 stems per square meter under simulated nitrogen deposition.

The mean abundance of seedlings between three and five years of age also significantly declined under simulated nitrogen deposition: 10.6 stems per square meter grew under ambient nitrogen deposition, compared to 0.6 stems per square meter under simulated nitrogen deposition.

"Increasing nitrogen deposition has the potential to lead to major changes in sugar maple-dominated northern hardwood forests in the Great Lakes region," said Patterson, who now works as a botanist for the Huron-Manistee National Forests in Michigan.

"In terms of regeneration, it looks like it'll be difficult for new seeds to replace the forest overstory in the future," she said "So the populations of sugar maples in this region could potentially decline."

A sugar maple displays its fall foliage. Photo courtesy of flickr.com user tlindenbaumThe article is titled "Simulated N deposition negatively impacts sugar maple regeneration in a northern hardwood ecosystem." The other authors are Andrew J. Burton of Michigan Technological University, Alan F. Talhelm of the University of Idaho and Kurt S. Pregitzer of the University of Idaho.

Funding for the study has been provided by grants from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy's Division of Environmental Biology.

"The surprising results reported in this study are an example of the value of long-term research," said Saran Twombly, program director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the work.

"Uncovering the unexpected link between nitrogen deposition and sugar maple seedling success depended on the ability to simulate increased nitrogen deposition year after year," Twombly said. "The manipulations used to reveal the details of this link could not have worked in other than a long-term study."

Jim Erickson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.umich.edu
http://ns.umich.edu/new/20128-acid-rain-poses-a-previously-unrecognized-threat-to-great-lakes-sugar-maples

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

Im Focus: Computer-Designed Customized Regenerative Heart Valves

Cardiovascular tissue engineering aims to treat heart disease with prostheses that grow and regenerate. Now, researchers from the University of Zurich, the Technical University Eindhoven and the Charité Berlin have successfully implanted regenerative heart valves, designed with the aid of computer simulations, into sheep for the first time.

Producing living tissue or organs based on human cells is one of the main research fields in regenerative medicine. Tissue engineering, which involves growing...

Im Focus: Light-induced superconductivity under high pressure

A team of scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg investigated optically-induced superconductivity in the alkali-doped fulleride K3C60under high external pressures. This study allowed, on one hand, to uniquely assess the nature of the transient state as a superconducting phase. In addition, it unveiled the possibility to induce superconductivity in K3C60 at temperatures far above the -170 degrees Celsius hypothesized previously, and rather all the way to room temperature. The paper by Cantaluppi et al has been published in Nature Physics.

Unlike ordinary metals, superconductors have the unique capability of transporting electrical currents without any loss. Nowadays, their technological...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Supersonic waves may help electronics beat the heat

18.05.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Keeping a Close Eye on Ice Loss

18.05.2018 | Information Technology

CrowdWater: An App for Flood Research

18.05.2018 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>