Nitrogen and Sulfur Deposition Reductions Projected to Partially Restore Forest Soil Conditions in the US Northeast, While Understory Composition Continues to Shift with Future Climate Change
Leduc, S., C. Clark, J. Phelan, S. Belyazid, M. Bennett, K. Boaggio, J. Buckley, J. Cajka, AND P. Jones. Nitrogen and Sulfur Deposition Reductions Projected to Partially Restore Forest Soil Conditions in the US Northeast, While Understory Composition Continues to Shift with Future Climate Change. WATER, AIR, & SOIL POLLUTION. Springer, New York, NY, 233(376):1-26, (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11270-022-05793-5
Human activities have dramatically increased nitrogen (N) and sulfur (S) deposition, altering forest ecosystem function and structure. Anticipating how changes in deposition and climate impact forests can inform decisions regarding these environmental stressors.
We used a dynamic soil-vegetation model (ForSAFE-Veg) to simulate responses to future scenarios of atmospheric deposition and climate change across 23 Northeastern hardwood stands. Specifically, we simulated soil percent base saturation, acid neutralizing capacity (ANC), nitrate (NO3-) leaching, and understory composition under 13 interacting deposition and climate change scenarios to the year 2100, including anticipated deposition reductions under the Clean Air Act (CAA) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change-predicted climate futures. Overall, deposition affected soil responses more than climate did. Soils recovered to historic conditions only when future deposition returned to pre-industrial levels, although anticipated CAA deposition reductions led to a partial recovery of percent base saturation (60 to 72%) and ANC (65 to 71%) compared to historic values. CAA reductions also limited NO3- leaching to 30 to 66% above historic levels, while current levels of deposition resulted in NO3- leaching 150 to 207% above historic values. In contrast to soils, understory vegetation was affected strongly by both deposition and climate. Vegetation shifted away from historic and current assemblages with increasing deposition and climate change. Anticipated CAA reductions could maintain current assemblages under current climate conditions or slow community shifts under increased future changes in temperature and precipitation. Overall, our results can inform decision makers on how these dual stressors interact to affect forest health, and the efficacy of deposition reductions under a changing climate.