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Harvard Forest Symposium Abstract 2008

  • Title: The Adirondack Lowland Boreal: Current State and Coming Changes
  • Primary Author: Jerry Jenkins (Wildlife Conservation Society)
  • Abstract:

    The Adirondack lowland boreal is an ensemble of boreal peatlands and associated waterbodies. It is the southernmost large boreal ensemble in North America and contains both distinctive habitat types (large open bogs, open river corridors) and many range-limit species. This paper summarizes 25 years of field work in the lowland boreal, appraises its current condition, and presents some information bearing on its future in the climate-change century. The chief findings are (1) that the boreal is quite rich, relative to its overall species diversity, in ecologically specialized birds and plants. (2) That the largest historical loss of boreal habitat has been from the flooding of floating mat communities, which has decreased the area of floating mats by 50% or more. (3) That chief contemporary stresses on boreal lowland habitats are acid deposition and climate warming. The most likely effects of acid deposition are altered lichen communities and stimulated shrub and tree growth. Climate warming is probably not capable of making detectable changes in mat growth and peat accumulation, but can make rapid changes in nitrogen cycling and in ice damage in alluvial habitats, both of which will combine with acid deposition to promote shrub growth. (4) That changes are currently occurring but are poorly documented. We are seeing apparent increases in shrub growth, decreases in river ice, depauperate macrolichen faunas, and rapid changes in boreal bird occupancy in some habitats, but don't know as yet if these are correlated with each other or with climate change and deposition.

  • Research Category: Conservation and Management, Regional Studies