Biogeochemistry of beetle-killed forests: Explaining a weak nitrate response
A current pine beetle infestation has caused extensive mortality of lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) in forests of Colorado and Wyoming; it is part of an unprecedented multispecies beetle outbreak extending from Mexico to Canada. In United States and European watersheds, where atmospheric deposition of inorganic N is moderate to low (<10 kg⋅ha⋅y), disturbance of forests by timber harvest or violent storms causes an increase in stream nitrate concentration that typically is close to 400% of predisturbance concentrations. In contrast, no significant increase in streamwater nitrate concentrations has occurred following extensive tree mortality caused by the mountain pine beetle in Colorado. A model of nitrate release from Colorado watersheds calibrated with field data indicates that stimulation of nitrate uptake by vegetation components unaffected by beetles accounts for significant nitrate retention in beetle-infested watersheds. The combination of low atmospheric N deposition (<10 kg⋅ha⋅y), tree mortality spread over multiple years, and high compensatory capacity associated with undisturbed residual vegetation and soils explains the ability of these beetle-infested watersheds to retain nitrate despite catastrophic mortality of the dominant canopy tree species.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Biogeochemistry of beetle-killed forests: Explaining a weak nitrate response|
|Publisher||National Academy of Sciences|
|Contributing office(s)||Colorado Water Science Center|