Forest Response to the US 1990 Clean Air Act: The Southern Spruce-Fir Ecosystem


The history of the Black Mountains in North Carolina and the southern Spruce-Fir ecosystem has been fraught with widespread forest decline since the mid 1960’s. Balsam Woolly Adelgid attacks and acidic deposition were two of the most recognized causes of decline. Uncertainty arose about the future of these forests, and projections were made regarding the endangerment or extinction of the endemic Fraser fir ([Pursh] Poiret). This study analyzed data sets from a permanent plot network in the Black Mountains dating 1985, 2002, and 2012. Indications that the Fraser fir population is stabilizing from a “boom-bust” cycle of population growth and has entered the stem exclusion stage of forest stand development are evident. Fir live stem density increased more than 250% from 1985 to 2002, and then declined 40% by 2012 at the highest elevations in the forest. Overall, fir appeared to be more impacted on western facing slopes than eastern ones. The population of red spruce experienced a steady decrease in live stem counts, but an increase in live basal area through all years, and at all elevation classes (1675 m, 1830 m, and 1980 m), indicating a normal progression through stand development. Red spruce was also most negatively impacted on western facing slopes. Live stem density was significantly higher (P < 0.001) than eastern plots, but live basal area was similar between the two aspects. Atmospheric deposition concentrations of the four main acidic molecules at Mt. Mitchell all peaked in 1998, but decreased by 2012. These reductions, occurring shortly after tightened regulations in the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act may have potential implications for increased forest resilience.

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S. Banks, "Forest Response to the US 1990 Clean Air Act: The Southern Spruce-Fir Ecosystem," American Journal of Plant Sciences, Vol. 5 No. 3, 2014, pp. 372-386. doi: 10.4236/ajps.2014.53050.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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