Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hemlock Trees Dying Rapidly, Affecting Forest Carbon Cycle

Date:
March 10, 2009
Source:
Southern Research Station - USDA Forest Service
Summary:
The hemlock woolly adelgid is killing hemlock trees faster than expected in the southern Appalachians and rapidly altering the carbon cycle of these forests according to a new study in the journal Ecosystems.

New research by U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) scientists and partners suggests the hemlock woolly adelgid is killing hemlock trees faster than expected in the southern Appalachians and rapidly altering the carbon cycle of these forests. SRS researchers and cooperators from the University of Georgia published the findings in the most recent issue of the journal Ecosystems.

"The study marks the first time that scientists have tracked the short-term effects hemlock woolly adelgid infestations are having on the forest carbon cycle," said Chelcy Ford, SRS ecologist and co-author of the paper.

Eastern hemlock, a keystone species in the streamside forests of the southern Appalachian region, is already experiencing widespread decline and mortality because of hemlock woolly adelgid (a tiny nonnative insect) infestation. The pest has the potential to kill most of the region's hemlock trees within the next decade. As a native evergreen capable of maintaining year-round transpiration rates, hemlock plays an important role in the ecology and hydrology of mountain ecosystems. Hemlock forests provide critical habitat for birds and other animals; their shade helps maintain the cool water temperatures required by trout and other aquatic organisms in mountain streams.

Scientists conducted the study in mixed hardwood forests along the edges of two streams at the SRS Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory, a 5,600-acre research facility and experimental forest in the Nantahala Mountain Range of western North Carolina.

Researchers compared rates of decline of adelgid-infested hemlock trees to a small number of girdled (severely wounded the bark of a tree to initiate tree mortality) trees that were not infested. Researchers tracked changes in the carbon cycle of these hemlock stands over a 3-year period. Scientists measured components of the forest carbon cycle – including tree growth, leaf litter and fine root biomass, and soil respiration – over the 3-year period.

"While we expected that girdled trees would decline quickly, we were surprised to find that hemlock declines just as quickly from adelgid infestation," said Ford. "This research shows that hemlock woolly adelgid infestation is rapidly impacting the carbon cycle in these tree stands. The study also supports the widely held belief that adelgid-infested hemlock trees in the South are declining much faster than the reported 9-year decline of some infested hemlock trees in the Northeast."

The study showed, among other things, that very fine roots in the girdled and hemlock woolly adelgid-infested plots declined by 38 percent and 22 percent, respectively, during the 3-year period. In addition, in the first year after girdling and infestation, researchers found soil respiration was approximately 20 percent lower than they expected.

The authors suggest that infrequent frigid winter temperatures in the southern Appalachians may not be enough to suppress adelgid populations. The authors believe this could be one explanation of why infested hemlocks appear to be declining faster in the South than in the Northeast. The authors also point out that other tree species are quick to occupy the space given up by their dying hemlock neighbors.

"Perhaps because of increased light in the canopy and reduced competition for soil nutrients and water, other species are already increasing their growth," said Ford. "We'll continue to monitor this, but, it's still too early to predict just how different these forests will look 50 or 100 years from now."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Southern Research Station - USDA Forest Service. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. April E. Nuckolls. Hemlock Declines Rapidly with Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Infestation: Impacts on the Carbon Cycle of Southern Appalachian Forests. Ecosystems, DOI: 10.1007/s10021-008-9215-3

Cite This Page:

Southern Research Station - USDA Forest Service. "Hemlock Trees Dying Rapidly, Affecting Forest Carbon Cycle." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090226122730.htm>.
Southern Research Station - USDA Forest Service. (2009, March 10). Hemlock Trees Dying Rapidly, Affecting Forest Carbon Cycle. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090226122730.htm
Southern Research Station - USDA Forest Service. "Hemlock Trees Dying Rapidly, Affecting Forest Carbon Cycle." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090226122730.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

UN Joint Mission Starts Removing Landmines in Cyprus

UN Joint Mission Starts Removing Landmines in Cyprus

AFP (Apr. 23, 2014) — The UN mission in Cyprus (UNFICYP) led a mine clearance demonstration on Wednesday in the UN-controlled buffer zone where demining operations are being conducted near the Cypriot village of Mammari. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
California Drought Is Good News for Gold Prospectors

California Drought Is Good News for Gold Prospectors

AFP (Apr. 22, 2014) — For months California has suffered from a historic drought. The lack of water is worrying for farmers and ranchers, but for gold diggers it’s a stroke of good fortune. With water levels low, normally inaccessible areas are exposed. Duration: 01:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: MN Lakes Still Frozen Before Fishing Opener

Raw: MN Lakes Still Frozen Before Fishing Opener

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) — With only three weeks until Minnesota's fishing opener, many are wondering if the ice will be gone. Some of the Northland lakes are still covered by up to three feet of ice, causing concern that just like last year, the lakes won't be ready. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Warn Of Likely El Niño Event This Year

Scientists Warn Of Likely El Niño Event This Year

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — With Pacific ocean water already showing signs of warming, the NOAA says there's about a 66 percent chance the event will begin before November. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins