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Nitrogen enters terrestrial ecosystems through multiple pathways during primary succession. We measured accumulation of total soil nitrogen and changes in inorganic nitrogen (N) pools across a 300-y sequence of river terraces in northwest Alaska and assessed the contribution of the nitrogen-fixing shrub Shepherdia canadensis. Our work compared 5 stages of floodplain succession, progressing from a sparsely vegetated silt cap to dense shrubby vegetation, balsam poplar-dominated (Populus balsamifera) and white spruce-dominated (Picea glauca) mixed forests, and old-growth white spruce forest. Total soil N (0–30 cm depth) increased throughout the age sequence, initially by 2.4 g N·m−2·y−1 during the first 120 y of terrace...
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The extensive boreal biome is little studies relative to its global importance. Its high soil moisture and low temperatures result in large below-ground reservoirs of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N). Presently, such high-latitude ecosystems are undergoing the largest temperature increases in global warming. Change in soil temperature or moisture in the large pools of soil organic matter could fundamentally change ecosystem C and N budgets. Since 1990, we have conducted treeline studies in a small (800 ha) watershed in Noatak National Preserve, northwestern Alaska. Our objectives were to (1) gain an understanding of treeline dynamics, structure, and function; and (2) examine the effects of global climate change, particularly...
Old-growth forests of Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii Parry ex. Engelm.) and subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa (Hook.) Nutt.) dominate much of the landscape of the Rocky Mountains. We characterized the structure, biomass and production of 18 old-growth (200?450-year-old) spruce/fir forests in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, as well as the stand-level supply and use of light and nitrogen. Stands were chosen to span a broad range of elevation, aspect, and topography. Aboveground tree biomass in these old-growth forests averaged 253 Mg/ha (range 130?488 Mg/ha), with aboveground net primary production of 3700 kg ha?1 yr?1 (range from 2700 to 5200 kg ha?1 yr?1). Within stands, trees >35 cm in diameter accounted...
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Elk (Cervus elaphus) populations in Rocky Mountain National Park are higher than at any time in the past century, and heavy browsing by elk may interfere with aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) regneration. We used aerial photographs to identify all aspen stands within Rocky Mountain National Park, and all aspen stands within the elk winter range range (defined as 2400 to 2800 m elevation) in three portions of the adjacent Roosevelt National Forest. From this population of aspen stands, we randomly selected 57 stands for evaluation of aspen regeneration. Stands that contained stems younger than 30 years and taller than 2.5 m tall were classified as regenerating successfully. Only 20% of the aspen stands in Estes...
Patterns of nitrogen (N) accumulation and turnover in riparian systems in semi-arid regions are poorly understood, particularly in those ecosystems that lack substantial inputs from nitrogen fixing vegetation. We investigated sources and fluxes of N in chronosequences of riparian forests along the regulated Green River and the free-flowing Yampa River in semi-arid northwestern Colorado. Both rivers lack significant inputs from N-fixing vegetation. Total soil nitrogen increased through time along both rivers, at a rate of about 7.8 g N m(-2) year(-1) for years 10-70, and 2.7 g N m(-2)year(-1) from years 70-170. We found that the concentration of N in freshly deposited sediments could account for most of the soil...
Some theories and experimental studies suggest that areas of low plant species richness may be invaded more easily than areas of high plant species richness. We gathered nested-scale vegetation data on plant species richness, foliar cover, and frequency from 200 1-m2 subplots (20 1000-m2 modified-Whittaker plots) in the Colorado Rockies (USA), and 160 1-m2 subplots (16 1000-m2 plots) in the Central Grasslands in Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Minnesota (USA) to test the generality of this paradigm. At the 1-m2 scale, the paradigm was supported in four prairie types in the Central Grasslands, where exotic species richness declined with increasing plant species richness and cover. At the 1-m2 scale, five forest...
Studies to identify gaps in the protection of habitat for species of concern have been inconclusive and ham- pered by single-scale or poor multi-scale sampling methods, large minimum mapping units (MMU?s of 2 ha to 100 ha), limited and subjectively selected field observations, and poor mathematical and ecological models. We overcome these obstacles with improved multi-scale sampling techniques, smaller MMU?s (< 0.02 ha), an unbiased sampling design based on double sampling, improved mathematical models including species-area curves corrected for habitat heterogeneity, and geographic information system-based ecological models. We apply this landscape analysis approach to address resource issues in Rocky Mountain...
During the 20th Century the flow of most rivers in the United States was regulated by diversions and dams, with major impacts on riparian forests. Few unregulated rivers remain to provide baseline information for assessing these impacts. We characterized patterns in riparian plant communities along chronosequences on the unregulated Yampa River and the regulated Green River in northwestern Colorado, examining patterns in plant species diversity in relation to the ages of floodplain terraces. On both rivers, mean plant species richness in cottonwood (Populus deltoides Marshall subsp. wislizenzii (Watson) Eckenwalder) dominated riparian forests declined by more than 50% from young sites (<20 years) to old upland terraces...
We tested the hypothesis that decomposition in flood-inundated patches of riparian tree leaf litter results in higher plant-available nitrogen in underlying, nutrient-poor alluvium. We used leafpacks (n=56) containing cottonwood (Populus deltoides ssp. wislizenii) leaf litter to mimic natural accumulations of leaves in an experiment conducted on the Yampa River floodplain in semi-arid northwestern Colorado, USA. One-half of the leafpacks were set on the sandy alluvial surface, and one-half were buried 5 cm below the surface. The presence of NO3? and NH4+ presumed to result from a leafpack?s submergence during the predictable spring flood pulse was assessed using an ion-exchange resin bag (IER) placed beneath each...
Elk browsing and conifer species mixing with aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) present current challenges to aspen forest management in the western United States. We evaluated the effects of conifers and elk browsing on quaking aspen stands in and near Rocky Mountain National Park using tree rings to reconstruct patterns of aspen establishment, growth, and mortality over the past 120 years. High conifer encroachment and elk browse were both associated with decreased aspen recruitment, with mean recruitment dropping over 30% from pure aspen to mixed stands and over 50% from low-browse to high-browse stands. Maximum aspen recruitment was lower in mixed stands than in pure stands with the same tree basal area. High...
In ecology textbooks prior to the 1970s, Aldo Leopold's classic story of predator control, over-population of deer, and habitat degradation on the Kaibab Plateau during the 1920s epitomized predator regulation of herbivore populations. However, the story disappeared from texts in the late 20th century after several papers noted uncertainties in estimations of the deer population and provided alternative explanations. We re-examined the case study by determining the age structure of aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) on the plateau. Aspen comprises the majority of deer browse in the summer, and the absence of a normal cohort of aspen from the 1920s would indicate deer over-population. The number of aspen (at 1.4...
We used data from 142 stands in Colorado and Wyoming, USA, to test the expectations of a model of growth dominance and stand development. Growth dominance relates the distribution of growth rates of individual trees within a stand to tree sizes. Stands with large trees that account for a greater share of stand growth than of stand mass exhibit strong growth dominance. Stands with large trees that contribute less to stand growth than to stand mass show reverse growth dominance. The four-phase model predicts that forests move from a period of little dominance (Phase 1), with trees accounting for similar contributions to stand growth and stand mass. Phase 2 is a period of strong growth dominance, where larger trees...


    map background search result map search result map Aspen regeneration in the Colorado Front Range: differences at local and landscape scales Stable soil nitrogen accumulation and flexible organic matter stoichiometry during primary floodplain succession Alder (Alnus crispa) effects on soils in ecosystems of the Agashashok River valley, northwest Alaska Treeline biogeochemistry and dynamics, Noatak National Preserve, northwestern Alaska Stable soil nitrogen accumulation and flexible organic matter stoichiometry during primary floodplain succession Aspen regeneration in the Colorado Front Range: differences at local and landscape scales Alder (Alnus crispa) effects on soils in ecosystems of the Agashashok River valley, northwest Alaska Treeline biogeochemistry and dynamics, Noatak National Preserve, northwestern Alaska