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Individual Highlight

Quantifying the Ecological Risk from Nitrogen and Sulfur Deposition Across U.S. forests

Photo of The lichen Antlered perfume (Evernia prunastri) growing in an unpolluted (left) vs. polluted (right) area.The lichen Antlered perfume (Evernia prunastri) growing in an unpolluted (left) vs. polluted (right) area.Snapshot : Many species of lichen are very sensitive to air pollution, making them useful bioindicators of environmental health. Preventing pollution levels from exceeding the point at which lichen can no longer survive would help meet USDA Forest Service mission operational goals to protect biodiversity and sustain the health and productivity of forests. Protecting lichens also supports direct and indirect ecosystem services related to food, fiber, hunting, recreation, pharmaceuticals and traditional uses.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Jovan, Sarah, Dr 
Research Station : Pacific Northwest Research Station (PNW)
Year : 2019
Highlight ID : 1583

Summary

Air pollution poses a major threat to human and environmental health in many parts of the world. Pollutants with nitrogen and sulfur can be particularly harmful to natural ecosystems. Critical loads of atmospheric deposition help decisionmakers identify levels of air pollution harmful to ecosystem components. USDA Forest Service scientists at the agency's Pacific Northwest Research Station modeled relationships between nitrogen and sulfur deposition and epiphytic macrolichens. They examined how these pollutants affect species richness, abundance, and diversity of ecologically important lichen. They created eight manager-relevant lichen metrics for quantifying the ecological risk from nitrogen and sulfur deposition across U.S. forests. Preventing exceedance of lichen critical loads can help managers and regulators meet mission operational goals to protect biodiversity and sustain the health and productivity of forests. Protecting lichens also supports direct and indirect ecosystem services related to food, fiber, hunting, recreation, pharmaceuticals and traditional uses.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Northern Research Station,
  • USDA Forest Service Water Wildlife Fish Air & Rare Plants
  • National Center for Environmental Assessment
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Weber State University