Nitrogen deposition and climate change effects on tree species composition and ecosystem services for a forest cohort


The composition of forests in the northeastern United States and the ecosystem services they provide to future generations will depend on several factors. In this paper, we isolate the effects of two environmental drivers, nitrogen (N) deposition and climate (temperature and precipitation) change, through an analysis of a single cohort of 24 dominant tree species. We assembled a tree database using data from U.S. Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis monitoring plots. Applying observed species-specific growth and survival responses, we simulated how forest stands in a 19-state study area would change from 2005 to 2100 under 12 different future N deposition-climate scenarios. We then estimated implications for three selected forest ecosystem services: merchantable timber, aboveground carbon sequestration, and tree diversity. Total tree biomass (for 24 species combined) was positively associated with both increased N deposition and temperatures; however, due to differences in the direction and magnitude of species-specific responses, forest composition varied across scenarios. For example, red maple (Acer rubrum) trees gained biomass under scenarios with more N deposition and more climate change, whereas biomass of yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) and red pine (Pinus resinosa) was negatively affected. Projections for ecosystem services also varied across scenarios. Carbon sequestration, which is positively associated with biomass accumulation, increased with N deposition and increasing climate change. Total timber values also increased with overall biomass; however, scenarios with increasing climate change tended to favor species with lower merchantable value, whereas more N deposition favored species with higher merchantable value. Tree species diversity was projected to decrease with greater changes in climate (warmer temperatures), especially in the northwestern, central, and southeastern portions of the study area. In contrast, the effects of N deposition on diversity varied greatly in magnitude and direction across the study area. This study highlights species-specific and regional effects of N deposition and climate change in northeastern U.S. forests, which can inform management decision for air quality and forests in the region, as well as climate policy. It also provides a foundation for future studies that may incorporate other important factors such as multiple cohorts, sulfur deposition, insects, and diseases.



Acer rubrum, Acer saccharum, carbon sequestration, community composition, critical loads, forests, Liriodendron tulipifera, Prunus serotina, Quercus rubra