Red cedar tree study shows that clean air act is reducing pollution, improving forests

Red cedar tree study shows that clean air act is reducing pollution, improving forests

Ecologist have shown that the Clean Air Act has helped forest systems recover from decades of sulfur pollution and acid rain. The research team spent four years studying centuries-old eastern red cedar trees, or Juniperus virginiana, in the Central Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia.

via ScienceDaily: Ecology News:

Sep. 2, 2013 — A collaborative project involving a Kansas State University ecologist has shown that the Clean Air Act has helped forest systems recover from decades of sulfur pollution and acid rain.The research team — which included Jesse Nippert, associate professor of biology — spent four years studying centuries-old eastern red cedar trees, or Juniperus virginiana, in the Central Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. The region is downwind of the Ohio River Valley coal power plants and experienced high amounts of acidic pollution — caused by sulfur dioxide emissions — in the 20th century.By studying more than 100 years of eastern red cedar tree rings, the scientists found that the trees have improved in growth and physiology in the decades since the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970.”There is a clear shift in the growth, reflecting the impact of key environmental legislation,” Nippert said. “There are two levels of significance in this research. One is in terms of how we interpret data from tree rings and how we interpret the physiology of trees. The other level of significance is that environmental legislation can have a tremendous impact on an entire ecosystem.”The findings appear in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or PNAS, in the article “Evidence of recovery of Juniperus virginiana trees from sulfur pollution after the Clean Air Act.”The principal investigator on the project was Richard Thomas, professor of biology at West Virginia University. Other researchers include Scott Spal, master’s graduate from West Virginia University, and Kenneth Smith, undergraduate student at West Virginia University.For the study, the scientists collected and analyzed data from eastern red cedar trees ranging from 100 to 500 years old. The researchers wanted to better understand the trees’ physiological response and the growth response to long-term acid deposition, or acid rain.The team focused on red cedar trees because they are abundant, long-lived and a good recorder of environmental variability. Red cedar trees grow slowly and rely on surface soil moisture, which makes them sensitive to environmental change. Their abilities to live for centuries meant that researchers could analyze hundreds of years of tree rings, Nippert said.The researchers analyzed the stable carbon isotopes within each tree ring as a recorder of physiological changes through time. …

For more info: Red cedar tree study shows that clean air act is reducing pollution, improving forests

ScienceDaily: Ecology News

Red cedar tree study shows that clean air act is reducing pollution, improving forests

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