Modeled effects of soil acidification on long-term ecological and economic outcomes for managed forests in the Adirondack region (USA)

Science of the Total Environment
New York State Energy Research and Development Authority; USGS
By: , and 

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Abstract

Sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is among the most ecologically and economically important tree species in North America, and its growth and regeneration is often the focus of silvicultural practices in northern hardwood forests. A key stressor for sugar maple (SM) is acid rain, which depletes base cations from poorly-buffered forest soils and has been associated with much lower SM vigor, growth, and recruitment. However, the potential interactions between forest management and soil acidification – and their implications for the sustainability of SM and its economic and cultural benefits – have not been investigated. In this study, we simulated the development of 50 extant SM stands in the western Adirondack region of NY (USA) for 100 years under different soil chemical conditions and silvicultural prescriptions. We found that interactions between management prescription and soil base saturation will strongly shape the ability to maintain SM in managed forests. Below 12% base saturation, SM did not regenerate sufficiently after harvest and was replaced mainly by red maple (Acer rubrum) and American beech (Fagus grandifolia). Loss of SM on acid-impaired sites was predicted regardless of whether the shelterwood or diameter-limit prescriptions were used. On soils with sufficient base saturation, models predicted that SM will regenerate after harvest and be sustained for future rotations. We then estimated how these different post-harvest outcomes, mediated by acid impairment of forest soils, would affect the potential monetary value of ecosystem services provided by SM forests. Model simulations indicated that a management strategy focused on syrup production – although not feasible across the vast areas where acid impairment has occurred – may generate the greatest economic return. Although pollution from acid rain is declining, its long-term legacy in forest soils will shape future options for sustainable forestry and ecosystem stewardship in the northern hardwood forests of North America.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Modeled effects of soil acidification on long-term ecological and economic outcomes for managed forests in the Adirondack region (USA)
Series title Science of the Total Environment
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.04.008
Volume 565
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Publisher location Amsterdam
Contributing office(s) New York Water Science Center
Description 11 p.
First page 401
Last page 411
Country United States
State New York
Other Geospatial Adirondack Region
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N