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Assessing the Effects of Climate Change and Air Pollution on Soil Properties and Plant Diversity in Northeastern U.S. Hardwood Forests: Model Setup and Evaluation

Belyazid, Salim, Phelan, Jennifer, Nihlgård, Bengt, Sverdrup, Harald, Driscoll, Charles, Fernandez, Ivan, Aherne, Julian, Teeling-Adams, Leslie M., Bailey, Scott, Arsenault, Matt, Cleavitt, Natalie, Engstrom, Brett, Dennis, Robin, Sperduto, Dan, Werier, David, Clark, Christopher
Water, air, and soil pollution 2019 v.230 no.5 pp. 106
Fagus, air pollution, biomass, botanical composition, chemistry, climate, climate change, community structure, environmental indicators, forest ecosystems, ground vegetation, hardwood forests, models, nitrogen, plant communities, soil properties, soil quality, soil solution, streams, sulfur, trees, understory, Northeastern United States
The integrated forest ecosystem model ForSAFE-Veg was used to simulate soil processes and understory vegetation composition at three—sugar maple, beech, yellow birch—hardwood forest sites in the Northeastern United States (one at Hubbard Brook, NH, and two at Bear Brook, ME). Input data were pooled from a variety of sources and proved coherent and consistent. While the biogeochemical component ForSAFE was used with limited calibration, the ground vegetation composition module Veg was calibrated to field relevés. Evaluating different simulated ecosystem indicators (soil solution chemistry, tree biomass, ground vegetation composition) showed that the model performed comparably well regardless of the site’s soil condition, climate, and amounts of nitrogen (N) and sulfur (S) deposition, with the exception of failing to capture tree biomass decline at Hubbard Brook. The model performed better when compared with annual observation than monthly data. The results support the assumption that the biogeochemical model ForSAFE can be used with limited calibration and provide reasonable confidence, while the vegetation community composition module Veg requires calibration if the individual plant species are of interest. The study welcomes recent advances in empirically explaining the responses of hardwood forests to nutrient imbalances and points to the need for more research.