Forest Ecosystems In A Changing World

Burning fossil fuels contributes to high levels of nitrogen (N) deposition onto large areas of the Earth.  These elevated inputs are unprecedented and likely to continue if the increased consumption of fossil fuels outpaces improvements in combustion efficiency.

After decades of elevated N inputs, symptoms of N saturation are evident in some forests - but not in all.

When the supply of N exceeds the demand by living things, it can result in soil and stream acidification, the loss of nutrient cations from forest soils, high levels of toxic aluminum in the soil solution, and it may contribute to forest decline.

NSF LogoThanks to funding from NSF's Long Term Research in Environmental Biology (LTREB) program, scientists from the US Forest Service and West Virginia University are continuing long-term experimental manipulations and long-term monitoring efforts at the Fernow Experimental Forest in central Appalachia.

By continuing these efforts, new insights are resulting that deepen our understanding of how forest ecosystems respond to enhanced N additions and to soil acidification.

Among the questions being examined are: