Potential vulnerability of 348 herbaceous species to atmospheric deposition of nitrogen and sulfur in the United States

Nature Plants
By: , and 

Links

Abstract

Atmospheric nitrogen and sulfur pollution increased over much of the United States during the twentieth century from fossil fuel combustion and industrial agriculture. Despite recent declines, nitrogen and sulfur deposition continue to affect many plant communities in the United States, although which species are at risk remains uncertain. We used species composition data from >14,000 survey sites across the contiguous United States to evaluate the association between nitrogen and sulfur deposition and the probability of occurrence for 348 herbaceous species. We found that the probability of occurrence for 70% of species was negatively associated with nitrogen or sulfur deposition somewhere in the contiguous United States (56% for N, 51% for S). Of the species, 15% and 51% potentially decreased at all nitrogen and sulfur deposition rates, respectively, suggesting thresholds below the minimum deposition they receive. Although more species potentially increased than decreased with nitrogen deposition, increasers tended to be introduced and decreasers tended to be higher-value native species. More vulnerable species tended to be shorter with lower tissue nitrogen and magnesium. These relationships constitute predictive equations to estimate critical loads. These results demonstrate that many herbaceous species may be at risk from atmospheric deposition and can inform improvements to air quality policies in the United States and globally.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Potential vulnerability of 348 herbaceous species to atmospheric deposition of nitrogen and sulfur in the United States
Series title Nature Plants
DOI 10.1038/s41477-019-0442-8
Volume 5
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Springer Nature Limited
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 9 p.
First page 697
Last page 705
Country United States
Other Geospatial Contiguous United States
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional metadata about this publication, not found in other parts of the page is in this table