Testing the Feasibility of Using the ForSAFE-VEG Model to Map the Critical Load of Nitrogen to Protect Plant Biodiversity in the Rocky Mountains Region, USA

Abstract

The ForSAFE-VEG model was used to estimate atmospheric nitrogen deposition and climate effects on soil chemistry and ground vegetation in alpine and subalpine zones of the northern and central Rocky Mountains region in the USA from 1750 to 2500. Model simulations for a generalized site illustrated how the critical load of atmospheric nitrogen deposition could be estimated to protect plant biodiversity. The results appear reasonable compared with past model applications in northern Europe. Atmospheric N deposition critical loads estimated to protect plant biodiversity were 1 to 2 kg N/ha/year. This range could be greater, depending on the values selected for critical site-specific parameters (precipitation, temperature, soil chemistry, plant nutrient uptake, and any eventual harvest of biomass) and the amount of biodiversity change allowed.

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Acknowledgments

This study was funded by the National Park Service, Air Resources Division, Denver Colorado, through a contract with E&S Environmental Chemistry, Inc. Vegetation response data for the Rocky Mountains region were provided by the Denver Workshop participants. The participation of Dr. B. Nihlgård was sponsored by the Swedish Critical Loads Programme, funded by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.

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Correspondence to Timothy J. Sullivan.

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A ForSAFE-VEG manual will be available from the Swedish CLs team and issued from the CCE at Bilthoven, the Netherlands. It will include a parameter library derived from Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, France, and the Rocky Mountains. The model can be provided to CL researchers by the European partners free of cost as a part of the principle of open access research at Swedish universities.

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Sverdrup, H., McDonnell, T.C., Sullivan, T.J. et al. Testing the Feasibility of Using the ForSAFE-VEG Model to Map the Critical Load of Nitrogen to Protect Plant Biodiversity in the Rocky Mountains Region, USA. Water Air Soil Pollut 223, 371–387 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11270-011-0865-y

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Keywords

  • Nitrogen
  • Climate
  • Eutrophication
  • Alpine
  • Vegetation