Impacts of White Pine Needle Damage on seasonal litterfall dynamics and wood growth of eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) in northern New England


White Pine Needle Damage (WPND) is a complex of foliar fungal pathogens that have established as a chronic disease impacting eastern white pine (Pinus strobus L.) stands in the northeastern United States. With long-term ecological and economic impacts in mind, it is critical to quantify the negative effects of this disease on tree and forest health in order to make informed management decisions. We measured litterfall to determine the timing and magnitude of WPND-induced defoliation across four study sites in the northeastern US between 2014–2016. We measured N concentrations of needles cast throughout the 2014 growing season to estimate total litter N flux resulting from WPND. Additionally, to quantify growth declines we measured annual basal area increment (BAI) from six symptomatic study sites in the infected region. We found that WPND-induced defoliation in the months of June and July accounted for 47% of the total annual litterfall across the study sites, often exceeding normal needle senescence in October. Foliar %N in June and July was 0.78 and 0.84% respectively, significantly higher than October concentrations of 0.40%, suggesting incomplete resorption of N during the summer months. Untimely summer defoliations resulted in a mean estimated N loss of 0.92 g N m−2 yr−1, representing 63% of the total growing season N input from foliage. Growth of symptomatic trees at all sites was reduced following outbreaks of WPND initiating between 2007–2009. Severely infected trees reduced BAI 25–73% compared to pre-outbreak years. Our results show that WPND-induced defoliation significantly alters litterfall and N dynamics of affected stands, and suggest that subsequent N limitation in addition to reduced foliar area greatly reduces annual wood growth within infected stands.


Earth Systems Research Center

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Forest Ecology and Management



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