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Harvard Forest Symposium Abstract 2018

  • Title: Progressive Decline in Photosynthetic Uptake Capacity in a Hemlock Stand Infested by Hemlock Woolly Adelgid
  • Primary Author: J. William Munger (Harvard University)
  • Additional Authors: Audrey Barker Plotkin (Harvard Forest); Adrien Finzi (Boston University); David Orwig (Harvard Forest); Crystal Schaaf (Boston University)
  • Abstract:

    Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) is an invasive insect pest infesting eastern hemlock. Affected hemlock trees typically die within 4-10 years. Black birch seedlings thrive as a thinning canopy allows additional light to reach the forest floor. HWA invasion is a unique disturbance where decline and recovery are occuring simultaneously over an extended period. Although the overall vegetation dynamics associated with HWA disturbance have been well studied, the instantaneous carbon balance at the ecosystem scale has not been closely observed. At the Harvard Forest in central MA we have measured CO2, water and energy eddy flux since 2004. HWA has been present at Harvard Forest since 2002, but defoliation was insignificant prior to 2010. Since 2010 defoliation among trees near the Hemlock tower has increased dramatically and tree mortality is increasing. The pace of HWA attack has been monitored by periodic surveys and stand structure has been observed by 3-d lidar scans. In order to quantify changes in ecosystem metabolism without biasing the results from data filling we evaluate mean ecosystem function derived from a simple model that relates CO2 flux to temperature and light response. The mean carbon uptake efficiency during summer growing season declined about 13% from before 2010 (pre-HWA) to after 2010 (post-HWA). Average ecosystem respiration averaged over before and after intervals has not changed noticeably over this period. However, annual mean Reco in the summer peaks in 2014 and then declines over subsequent years. Mean uptake coefficients declined from 26 to 14 μmol-C m-2s-1 per μmol-photon m-2s-1 between 2010 and 2015, with some recovery in 2016. Taken together, results show that despite an accelerating forest mortality, ecosystem carbon stock in this infested hemlock stand has not been destabilized and that rates of carbon metabolism are changing more slowly than the decline in hemlock biomass. The ecosystem can partially compensate for loss of foliage as more light reaches previously shaded needles and new seedlings emerge in open gaps. However, we anticipate a shift in carbon uptake phenology as the fraction of deciduous vegetation increases. Ongoing mortality will add to the large carbon stock in the forest floor, but as yet there has not been a detectable change in rates of whole-ecosystem respiration.

  • Research Category: Invasive Plants, Pests & Pathogens; Forest-Atmosphere Exchange