USDA Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Research Station

 
Pacific Southwest
Research Station

800 Buchanan Street
Albany, CA 94710-0011
(510) 883-8830
United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.

Publications and Products

Title: Lichen bioindicators of nitrogen and sulfur deposition in dry forests of Utah and New Mexico, USA

Authors: Root, Heather T.; Jovan, Sarah; Fenn, Mark; Amacher, Michael; Hall, Josh; Shaw, John D.

Date: 2021

Source Ecological Indicators. 127: 107727.

Abstract: Anthropogenic nitrogen (N) and sulfur (S) deposition can negatively affect ecosystem functions and lichen biomonitors can be a cost-effective way to monitor air pollution exposure across the landscape. Interior dry forests of the southwestern United States face increasing development pressures; however, this region differs from others with well-developed biomonitoring programs in having drier climates and a greater fraction of deposition delivered in dry forms. We measured throughfall N and S deposition at 12 sites in Utah and 10 in New Mexico and co-located collection of 6 lichen species. Throughfall N deposition ranged from 0.76 to 6.96 kg/ha/ year and S deposition from 0.57 to 1.44 kg/ha/year with elevated levels near human development that were not predicted by commonly used simulation models. Throughfall N was 4.6 and 1.6 times higher in summer compared with fall-spring in Utah and New Mexico and S deposition was 3.9 and 1.8 times higher in summer. Lichen N and S concentrations ranged from 0.97 to 2.7% and 0.09 to 0.33%. Replicate samples within plots showed high variability in N and S concentrations with within-plot coefficients of variation for N ranging between 5 and 10% and for S between 7 and 15%. In Utah, N and S concentrations in lichen species were correlated with each other in most cases, with R2 ranging from 0.52 to 0.85. N concentrations in Melanohalea exasperatula and Melanohalea subolivacea could be correlated with average annual throughfall N deposition in Utah (R2 = 0.58 and 0.31). Those relationships were improved by focusing on deposition in fall-spring prior to lichen sampling in Utah (R2 for M. exasperatula, M. subolivacea, and X. montana = 0.59, 0.42, and 0.28). In New Mexico, lichens exhibited greater coefficients of variability within plots than between plots and could not be correlated with throughfall N deposition. In neither study area was S correlated between lichens and throughfall deposition, which may be the result of low S deposition over a narrow deposition range or complex lichen assimilation of S. Lichen biomonitoring for N deposition in the region shows promise, but could potentially be improved by sampling more thalli to reduce within-plot variability, repeated lichen collection synchronized with throughfall changeouts to explore temporal variability, and washing lichen collections to distinguish N and S that has been incorporated by the thalli from dry deposition that may accumulate on lichen surfaces.

Keywords: energy development, lichen, seasonal deposition, throughfall, TDep, CMAQ, ion exchange resin samplers

View and print the publication (2.0 MB)

Citation

    Root, Heather T.; Jovan, Sarah; Fenn, Mark; Amacher, Michael; Hall, Josh; Shaw, John D. 2021. Lichen bioindicators of nitrogen and sulfur deposition in dry forests of Utah and New Mexico, USA. Ecological Indicators. 127: 107727.
Last Modified: April 30, 2021