Impacts of Invasive Pests on Forest Carbon and Nitrogen Dynamics

Monday, 15 December 2014: 1:40 PM
Gary M Lovett and Katherine F. Crowley, Cary Institute, Millbrook, NY, United States
Forests of the U.S. have been subject to repeated invasions of destructive insects and diseases imported from other continents. Like other disturbances, these pests can produce short-term ecosystem effects due to tree mortality, but unlike other disturbances, they often target individual species and therefore can cause long-term species change in the forest. Because tree species vary in their influence on carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) cycles, pest-induced species change can radically alter the biogeochemistry of a forest. In this paper we use both data and modeling to examine how pest-induced species change may alter the C and N cycling in forests of the eastern U.S. We describe a new forest ecosystem model that distinguishes individual tree species and allows species composition to shift over the course of the model run. Results indicate that the mortality of eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) by hemlock woolly adelgid and its replacement by faster-growing species such as black birch (Betula lenta) will reduce forest floor C stocks but increase productivity as the birch become established. Decline of American beech (Fagus grandifolia) from beech bark disease and its replacement by sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is likely to decrease soil C storage and increase N leaching from the ecosystem. Responses to other invasive pests will also be discussed. The magnitude of these species-specific effects on C and N cycling is in many cases larger than direct effects expected from changes in climate and atmospheric N deposition, indicating that species change should be included in models that predict forest ecosystem function under future environmental conditions.