Calcium Fertilized Forests Use More Water According to New PSU and Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study

March 16th, 2013 by blyndes

Plymouth, N.H. – Bubbling brooks and streams are a scenic and much loved feature of forest ecosystems, but long-term data at the U.S. Forest Service’s Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest suggests that more productive forests might retain considerably less water, according to a study published recently in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Mark Green, an assistant professor at Plymouth State University and research hydrologist with the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station is the lead author for the study titled “Decreased Water Flowing from a Forest Amended with Calcium Silicate.”

Dr. Mark Green of Plymouth State University. Photo by Jon Gilbert Fox.

Acid rain during the 20th century caused widespread depletion of available soil calcium, an essential plant nutrient, throughout much of the industrialized world. In 1999, scientists at the Forest Service’s Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in the White Mountains of New Hampshire restored soil calcium levels to pre-industrial levels in a small watershed in an effort to better understand the ecological consequences of the depletion of available soil calcium. Subsequent studies demonstrated that following the application of a finely ground and pelletized calcium silicate mineral called wollastonite, species such as red spruce and sugar maple experienced improved cold hardiness and less seedling mortality in areas where calcium was applied.

When Green reviewed the long-term data several years later, he found something surprising about the 1999 study: within 5 months of the application of wollastonite across a 30-acre watershed, there was a substantial increase in forest water use compared to a nearby watershed that was not treated with calcium.

“Our results in this study show that when we create a substantial increase in soil calcium, this forest responded by using more water, partly associated with increased growth. The result is that we see a change in forest hydrology,” Green said. “We still have to determine whether the prior decrease in soil calcium due to acid rain caused a proportional decrease in evapotranspiration and thus greater streamflow, and if that means that when forests recover from acid deposition we’ll see a decrease in water flowing in streams.”

Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest is located in the towns of Woodstock and Thornton.

As the need for carbon sequestration, biofuels, and other forest products increases, the study suggests that there might be unintended consequences to enhancing ecosystems using fertilization.

“Long-term ecological research is important to understanding the health and sustainability of the nation’s forests,” said Michael T. Rains, Director of the Northern Research Station. “With a network of more than 80 experimental forests located across the country and decades of monitoring data from this network, the Forest Service is contributing invaluable information about forest conditions along a complex rural to urban land gradient as well as discovering other trends through a wide-range of ongoing critical research topics.”

Co-authors include NRS researchers Amey BaileyScott BaileyJohn Campbell, and Paul Schaberg, and John Battles of the University of California, BerkleyCharles Driscoll of Syracuse UniversityTimothy Fahey of Cornell UniversityLucie Lepine of the University of New HampshireGene Likens of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and University of Connecticut, and Scott Ollinger of the University of New Hampshire.

The Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest is a 7,200-acre valley located in the southern part of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. One of 80 experimental forests within the U.S. Forest Service’s Research and Development arm, Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest has served as an outdoor laboratory for ecological study since 1955. Forest Service scientists as well as scientists from agencies and universities throughout the world have studied the quantity and chemistry of water going into the forest in precipitation and out of the forest in stream water at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live. The mission of the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station is to improve people’s lives and help sustain the natural resources in the Northeast and Midwest through leading-edge science and effective information delivery.

This news release was originally published by the National Forest Service, Northern Research Station.

For more information about this release, please contact PSU News Services Mgr. Bruce Lyndes, (603) 535-2775 or blyndes@plymouth.edu

 

 

 

 

In the News

Example Image

Three local high schools to compete in 31st season of ‘Granite State Challenge’ on NHPTV

Monitor staff Monday, November 24, 2014 (Published in print: Tuesday, November 25, 2014) Some of the smartest students in the state are gearing up to compete in the 31st season of the Granite State Challenge on New Hampshire Public Television. Students from 16 high schools will participate in the televised competition, including teams from Concord […]

Example Image

Plymouth State students, alumni provide Thanksgiving meals

By DAN SEUFERT Union Leader Correspondent Andy McDonnell, an alumni of Plymouth State University and the Phi Beta Upsilon fraternity, works with Rev. Preston Fuller of the Tilton-Northfield United Methodist Church, who checks off a donations list on his clipboard. (DAN SEUFERT/Union Leader Correspondent) PLYMOUTH — Thanksgiving meals came early to hundreds of low-income and elderly […]

Example Image

Knowledge is power

PLYMOUTH––All that glitters is not gold, and everything you read on the Internet is not true. Finding reliable, factual reference information in today’s high technology world is not easy, but Plymouth State University’s Lamson Library and Learning Commons is showing Rivendell Academy students the best way to ferret out what’s fact from fiction. Twenty-seven juniors […]