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Title: Terrestrial acidification and ecosystem services: effects of acid rain on bunnies, baseball, and Christmas trees

Abstract

Often termed “acid rain,” combined nitrogen and sulfur deposition can directly and indirectly impact the condition and health of forest ecosystems. Researchers use critical loads (CLs) to describe response thresholds, and recent studies on acid-sensitive biological indicators show that forests continue to be at risk from terrestrial acidification. However, rarely are impacts translated into changes in “ecosystem services” that impact human well-being. Further, the relevance of this research to the general public is seldom communicated in terms that can motivate action to protect valuable resources. To understand how changes in biological indicators affect human well-being, we used the STEPS (Stressor–Ecological Production function–final ecosystem Services) Framework to quantitatively and qualitatively link CL exceedances to ecosystem service impacts. We specified the cause-and-effect ecological processes linking changes in biological indicators to final ecosystem services. The Final Ecosystem Goods and Services Classification System (FEGS-CS) was used within the STEPS Framework to classify the ecosystem component and the beneficiary class that uses or values the component. We analyzed two acid-sensitive tree species, balsam fir (Abies balsamea) and white ash (Fraxinus americana), that are common in northeastern USA. These well-known species provide habitat for animals and popular forest products that are relatable to a broad audience.more » We identified 160 chains with 10 classes of human beneficiaries for balsam fir and white ash combined, concluding that there are resources at risk that the public may value. Two stories resulting from these explorations into the cascading effects of acid rain on terrestrial resources are ideal for effective science communication: the relationship between (1) balsam fir as a popular Christmas tree and habitat for the snowshoe hare, a favorite of wildlife viewers, and (2) white ash because it is used for half of all baseball bats, fine wood products, and musical instruments. Thus, rather than focusing on biological indicators that may only be understood or appreciated by specific stakeholders or experts, this approach extends the analysis to include impacts on FEGS and humans. It also lays the foundation for developing stakeholder-specific narratives, quantitative measures of endpoints, and for conducting demand-based valuations of affected ecosystem services.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [2];  [3];  [4];  [3]
  1. Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Division of Planning Science and Resource Management, US National Park Service, Thousand Oaks California 91360 USA
  2. Office of Research and Development, National Center for Environmental Assessment, US Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park North Carolina 27709 USA
  3. RTI International, Research Triangle Park North Carolina 27709 USA
  4. Office of Research and Development, National Climate Assessment Global Change Impacts and Adaptations, Environmental Protection Agency, Crystal City Virginia 22202 USA
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
US Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, NC (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE; USEPA
OSTI Identifier:
1393577
Grant/Contract Number:
DEB-1547041
Resource Type:
Journal Article: Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Ecosphere
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 8; Journal Issue: 6; Journal ID: ISSN 2150-8925
Publisher:
Ecological Society of America
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES

Citation Formats

Irvine, Irina C., Greaver, Tara, Phelan, Jennifer, Sabo, Robert D., and Van Houtven, George. Terrestrial acidification and ecosystem services: effects of acid rain on bunnies, baseball, and Christmas trees. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.1002/ecs2.1857.
Irvine, Irina C., Greaver, Tara, Phelan, Jennifer, Sabo, Robert D., & Van Houtven, George. Terrestrial acidification and ecosystem services: effects of acid rain on bunnies, baseball, and Christmas trees. United States. doi:10.1002/ecs2.1857.
Irvine, Irina C., Greaver, Tara, Phelan, Jennifer, Sabo, Robert D., and Van Houtven, George. Thu . "Terrestrial acidification and ecosystem services: effects of acid rain on bunnies, baseball, and Christmas trees". United States. doi:10.1002/ecs2.1857. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1393577.
@article{osti_1393577,
title = {Terrestrial acidification and ecosystem services: effects of acid rain on bunnies, baseball, and Christmas trees},
author = {Irvine, Irina C. and Greaver, Tara and Phelan, Jennifer and Sabo, Robert D. and Van Houtven, George},
abstractNote = {Often termed “acid rain,” combined nitrogen and sulfur deposition can directly and indirectly impact the condition and health of forest ecosystems. Researchers use critical loads (CLs) to describe response thresholds, and recent studies on acid-sensitive biological indicators show that forests continue to be at risk from terrestrial acidification. However, rarely are impacts translated into changes in “ecosystem services” that impact human well-being. Further, the relevance of this research to the general public is seldom communicated in terms that can motivate action to protect valuable resources. To understand how changes in biological indicators affect human well-being, we used the STEPS (Stressor–Ecological Production function–final ecosystem Services) Framework to quantitatively and qualitatively link CL exceedances to ecosystem service impacts. We specified the cause-and-effect ecological processes linking changes in biological indicators to final ecosystem services. The Final Ecosystem Goods and Services Classification System (FEGS-CS) was used within the STEPS Framework to classify the ecosystem component and the beneficiary class that uses or values the component. We analyzed two acid-sensitive tree species, balsam fir (Abies balsamea) and white ash (Fraxinus americana), that are common in northeastern USA. These well-known species provide habitat for animals and popular forest products that are relatable to a broad audience. We identified 160 chains with 10 classes of human beneficiaries for balsam fir and white ash combined, concluding that there are resources at risk that the public may value. Two stories resulting from these explorations into the cascading effects of acid rain on terrestrial resources are ideal for effective science communication: the relationship between (1) balsam fir as a popular Christmas tree and habitat for the snowshoe hare, a favorite of wildlife viewers, and (2) white ash because it is used for half of all baseball bats, fine wood products, and musical instruments. Thus, rather than focusing on biological indicators that may only be understood or appreciated by specific stakeholders or experts, this approach extends the analysis to include impacts on FEGS and humans. It also lays the foundation for developing stakeholder-specific narratives, quantitative measures of endpoints, and for conducting demand-based valuations of affected ecosystem services.},
doi = {10.1002/ecs2.1857},
journal = {Ecosphere},
number = 6,
volume = 8,
place = {United States},
year = {Thu Jun 22 00:00:00 EDT 2017},
month = {Thu Jun 22 00:00:00 EDT 2017}
}

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  • Much of northeastern North America has been receiving precipitation of pH 4.6 or less, i.e. more than ten times more acid than normal rain (pH = 5.6) for at least the past 20 to 30 years. Originally, this acidity was almost totally due to sulfuric acid. These inputs of sulfuric acid in the very acid sensitive Adirondacks may have removed much of the neutralizing and nitrate-utilizing ability of the soils and water. Thus, this area may now be more sensitive to atmospheric inputs of nitric acid. Further work is required on the impact of acid nitrate deposition on the ecosystemmore » but with equal certainty it can be stated that sulfur deposition remains the princpial long term threat to acid sensitive ecosystems. It can be concluded that: much of the nitric acid in acid rain is decomposed in the soils and waterway, and is not a significant contributor to long-term acidification of soils and waters; although in the long term, nitric acid in atmospheric deposition is not likely to be contributing to the overall acidification of the environment, during the spring thaw, in areas which have been heavily impacted by acid rain for a number of years, nitric acid which has concentrated in the snow pack over the winter may cause ecological damage, especially to fish populations; though there is little doubt that tighter control strategies are necessary to diminish the effects of acid rain on remote ecosystems the existing control strategies, which have put more emphasis on the control of emissions of sulfur oxides than nitrogen oxides, have a reasonable scientific basis given our present limited knowledge of their effects on the ecosystem.« less
  • We collected soil cores with a diameter of 5 cm to a depth of 15.2 cm from a Lexington silt loam. Simulated precipitation with adjusted pH values of 3.7, 4.7, and 5.7 was applied to the soil cores in increments of 500 ml d{sup {minus}1} until total applications approximating 10, 20, 40 and 80 yr of effective rainfall in Louisiana were reached. The exchangeable acidity, exchangeable Al, and KCl pH were measured from 2.5-cm sections of the soil cores after treatment. The leaching solution of pH 3.7 after 80 yr volume of application had the greatest effect on the soilmore » pH, exchangeable acidity, and exchageable Al. Leachate pH, electrical conductivity, and cumulative Al were measured after each 5 yr of volume of application. The leachate pH values caused by the 3.7 and 4.7 pH leaching solution pH values. The leaching solution of pH 3.7, however, caused the lowest leachate pH and highest EC and cumulative Al. The volume of application caused no major trends in the data.« less
  • Field surveys were conducted to investigate the cause of growth abnormalities of commercially grown scotch pine in West Virginia and Maryland. The abnormalities include short needles, premature needle drop, bud failure and stunted growth. Five separate studies conducted during the summer of 1970, 1971, and 1972 included: a visual examination of diseased and healthy needles to determine if symptoms of air pollution injury were present; exposing sensitive plants to ambient air or carbon filtered air at two sites in the area; exchanging injured trees from a plantation in which many trees were injured with healthy trees from a plantation ofmore » healthy trees; grafting of healthy scions to diseased trees and diseased scions to healthy trees to determine if infectious agents were involved; and exposing scotch pine to acid mist during needle growth and development. Native vegetation in the area displayed symptoms of sulfur dioxide injury. The degree of growth abnormalities in the scotch pine decreased with increasing distance from a coal burning power plant, suggesting that sulfur dioxide and/or particulate emissions may be related to the growth suppressed only when exposed to ambient air. Healthy scotch pine moved to a diseased plantation developed some injury and diseased trees moved to a healthy plantation showed some recovery. Grafting experiments indicated that the growth abnormalities were not caused by infectious agents. Controlled exposure in 1972 and 1973 demonstrated reproducible short needle syndrome in scotch pine exposed to sulfuric acid aerosol.« less
  • Three decades of repeated soil sampling from eight permanent plots at the Calhoun Experimental Forest in South Carolina allowed the authors to estimate the rate of soil acidification, the chemical changes in the soil exchange complex, and the natural and anthropogenic sources of acidity contribution to these processes. During the first 34 yr of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) forest growth, soil pH, decreased by 1 unit in the upper 0- to 15-cm of soils and by 0.4 and 0.3 units in the 15- to 35- and 35- to 60-cm layers, respectively. Throughout the 0- to 60-cm horizon, base cationmore » depletion averaged 1.57 kmol{sub c} ha{sup {minus}1} yr{sup {minus}1} and effective and total acidity increased by 1.26 and 3.28 kmol{sub c} ha{sup {minus}1} yr{sup {minus}1}, respectively. A forest H{sup +} budget estimated for these decades indicated that 38% of soil acidification was due to acid deposition, while 62% of soil acidification was due to acid disposition, while 62% of soil acidification was attributed to the internal functioning of the ecosystem. Soil samples archived during the three-decade experiment also document decreases in soil-adsorbed SO{sub 4}{sup 2{minus}}, presumably in response to decreasing atmospheric inputs in recent years.« less
  • Experimental acidification of a small lake from an original pH value of 6.8 to 5.0 over an 8-year period caused a number of dramatic changes in the lake's food web. Changes in phytoplankton species, cessation of fish reproduction, disappearance of the benthic crustaceans, and appearance of filamentous algae in the littoral zone were consistent with deductions from synoptic surveys of lakes in regions of high acid deposition. Contrary to what had been expected from synoptic surveys, acidification of Lake 223 did not cause decreases in primary production, rates of decomposition, or nutrient concentrations. Key organisms in the food web leadingmore » to lake trout, including Mysis relicta and Pimephales promelas, were eliminated from the lake at pH values as high as 5.8, an indication that irreversible stresses on aquatic ecosystems occur earlier in the acidification process than was heretofore believed. These changes are caused by hydrogen ion alone, and not by the secondary effect of aluminum toxicity. Since no species of fish reproduced at pH values below 5.4, the lake would become fishless within about a decade on the basis of the natural mortalities of the most long-lived species. 45 references, 2 figures.« less