Carbon cycling along a gradient of beech bark disease impact in the Catskill Mountains, New York

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Exotic pests and pathogens, through direct and indirect effects on forest structure and species composition, have the potential to significantly alter forest ecosystem processes, including C cycling. Throughout the northern hardwood forest, beech bark disease (BBD) is causing widespread disruption in forest structure and composition. In the Catskill Mountains of New York, some forests formerly codominated by American beech (Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.) and sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.) are shifting to sugar maple dominance. The effects of BBD and a subsequent shift in species composition on annual aboveground net primary production and soil CO2 efflux were examined in eight forest plots selected to represent a gradient of BBD impact. There were no significant trends in aboveground net primary production across this gradient. However, growing season soil CO2 efflux decreased linearly along the BBD gradient, declining by 40%. Although the mechanism controlling this decline is uncertain, the decrease in soil CO2 efflux with BBD impact and a shift to greater composition of sugar maple in litterfall could significantly alter C cycling in northern hardwood stands in the Catskill Mountains. © 2008 NRC.

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Canadian Journal of Forest Research