Page 14 - Great Lakes Logging - August 2018
P. 14

Continued from page 12
"We've seen it go full arc from declining for some unknown reason, to figuring out the reason, to them doing something about the cause and then the tree responding and rebounding again," said Paul Schaberg, a plant physiologist with the U.S. Forest Service and a co-author of a new study on red spruce who has been researching the species since the 1980s. "It's just an amazing science arc."
In the 1960s through the 1980s, pollution — mostly from coal-powered plants in the Midwest and car emissions carried by the wind and deposited as acidic rain, snow and fog — devastated Northeast forests and lakes, leaching nutrients from soil and killing aquatic life.
Red spruce are particularly sensitive to acid rain and, at the height of the die-off, some forests lost 50 percent of them.
But decades later, not all the environmental damage is turning around at the pace of the red spruce.
Waterways are now showing signs of recovery, as are the upper layers of soil, although they are still strained by the acid deposits. Researchers are finding fish in lakes deemed fishless for years, but the populations are not large and the variety of species is not as diverse as before, said Gregory Lawrence, a research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey who is based in Troy, New York.
In the 1980s, University of Vermont scientist Hubert Vogelmann brought national attention to the acid rain issue by linking air pollution to forest damage on the slopes of Vermont's Green Mountains. Airborne
Photo by Manfred Mielke | USDA Forest Service via
At left, the mortality and regeneration cycle of red spruce is shown. While there are many causes of death in spruce trees, acid rain has done serious damage to red spruce on the east coast. However, polution controls are starting to allow the trees to recover.
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