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Open AccessArticle

Assessing Ecological Risks from Atmospheric Deposition of Nitrogen and Sulfur to US Forests Using Epiphytic Macrolichens

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Water, Wildlife, Fish, Air & Rare Plants Directorate, Forest Service, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, 201 14th St SW, Mailstop 1121, Washington, DC 20250, USA
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Penobscot Experimental Forest, Northern Research Station, Forest Service, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, and University of Fort Kent, Maine, 54 Government Road, Bradley, ME 04411, USA
3
Pacific Northwest Research Station, Forest Service, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, 620 SW Main St., Suite 502, Portland, OR 97205, USA
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Department of Botany, Weber State University, 1415 Edvalson St., Dept. 2504, Ogden, UT 84408-2505, USA
5
National Center for Environmental Assessment, Office of Research & Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20460, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Diversity 2019, 11(6), 87; https://doi.org/10.3390/d11060087
Received: 19 March 2019 / Revised: 19 May 2019 / Accepted: 22 May 2019 / Published: 3 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Lichen Diversity and Biomonitoring)
Critical loads of atmospheric deposition help decision-makers identify levels of air pollution harmful to ecosystem components. But when critical loads are exceeded, how can the accompanying ecological risk be quantified? We use a 90% quantile regression to model relationships between nitrogen and sulfur deposition and epiphytic macrolichens, focusing on responses of concern to managers of US forests: Species richness and abundance and diversity of functional groups with integral ecological roles. Analyses utilized national-scale lichen survey data, sensitivity ratings, and modeled deposition and climate data. We propose 20, 50, and 80% declines in these responses as cut-offs for low, moderate, and high ecological risk from deposition. Critical loads (low risk cut-off) for total species richness, sensitive species richness, forage lichen abundance and cyanolichen abundance, respectively, were 3.5, 3.1, 1.9, and 1.3 kg N and 6.0, 2.5, 2.6, and 2.3 kg S ha−1 yr−1. High environmental risk (80% decline), excluding total species richness, occurred at 14.8, 10.4, and 6.6 kg N and 14.1, 13, and 11 kg S ha−1 yr−1. These risks were further characterized in relation to geography, species of conservation concern, number of species affected, recovery timeframes, climate, and effects on interdependent biota, nutrient cycling, and ecosystem services. View Full-Text
Keywords: critical load; lichen; air pollution; environmental assessment; quantile regression; ecological risk; climate; biodiversity; conservation; land management; CMAQ; PRISM critical load; lichen; air pollution; environmental assessment; quantile regression; ecological risk; climate; biodiversity; conservation; land management; CMAQ; PRISM
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Geiser, L.H.; Nelson, P.R.; Jovan, S.E.; Root, H.T.; Clark, C.M. Assessing Ecological Risks from Atmospheric Deposition of Nitrogen and Sulfur to US Forests Using Epiphytic Macrolichens. Diversity 2019, 11, 87.

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