A synthesis of ecosystem management strategies for forests in the face of chronic N deposition

Environmental Pollution
US Environmental Protection Agency, USDA Forest Service
By: , and 



The relative importance of nitrogen (N) deposition as a stressor to global forests is likely to increase in the future, as N deposition increases in Asia and Africa, and as sulfur declines more than nitrogen in Europe, the US, and Canada. Even so, it appears that decreased N deposition may not be sufficient to induce recovery, suggesting that management interventions may be necessary to promote recovery over timescales desired by decision makers. Here we report a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of four remediation approaches (prescribed burning, thinning, liming, carbon addition) on three recovery responses from N deposition (decreased soil N availability, increased soil alkalinity, increased plant biodiversity), focusing on literature from North America. We found 72 publications (with 2156 responses) from the Web of Science that focused on one of these treatments but only 29 (with 408 responses) reported results appropriate for meta-analysis (others examined other end points or did not report sufficient data). We found that carbon addition was the only treatment that decreased N availability (effect size: -1.6 to -1.8), while liming, thinning, and burning all tended to increase N availability (effect sizes: +0.2 to +1.1). Only liming had a significant effect on soil alkalinity (+10% to 80% across metrics). Only prescribed burning and thinning affected plant diversity, but with opposing effects across metrics (i.e. increased richness, decreased Shannon or Simpson diversity) but effects were often statistically marginal. Thus, it appears that no single treatment will be effective in promoting recovery from N deposition for all three responses of interest, and combinations of treatments should be explored (esp. liming in combination with other treatments). These conclusions are based on the limited published data available, underscoring the need for more studies in forested areas and more consistent reporting across studies.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title A synthesis of ecosystem management strategies for forests in the face of chronic N deposition
Series title Environmental Pollution
DOI 10.1016/j.envpol.2019.02.006
Volume 248
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) WMA - Observing Systems Division
Description 13 p.
First page 1046
Last page 1058