High foliar and soil nitrogen concentrations in Central Appalachian forests

S. C. Davis, K. E. Dragan, C. R. Buyarski, R. B. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Regional topography and climate variation yield differences in ecosystem attributes that make spatially scaled estimates of forest productivity challenging. Foliar nitrogen is a primary indicator of forest ecosystem productivity and is used in regional estimates of terrestrial productivity, but this characteristic has not been well described in the Central Appalachian region. Here we describe foliar and soil N variation among species and elevations at two spatial scales in the Central Appalachian region: (1) across the Elklick watershed in the Fernow Experimental Forest and (2) across the state of West Virginia. We found higher foliar N concentrations at both scales than those previously reported for other temperate forest regions. Canopy and soil nitrogen concentrations were also much greater in the Fernow than generally observed across West Virginia. Soil N concentrations in the Fernow were two times greater than those observed across West Virginia. Species-related differences were observed at both spatial scales, but were not always consistent. Canopy N ranges are generally consistent across elevations throughout the state of West Virginia, but should be scaled according to species-related elevation effects for studies that estimate productivity differences in response to harvest or changing species composition. The incongruence of foliar and soil N concentrations at the Fernow Experimental Forest are not explained by elevation or species composition, but are likely a consequence of greater historical N and H+ deposition relative to the surrounding West Virginia region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)46-56
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2009


  • Canopy N
  • Central Appalachian
  • Eastern U.S. hardwood forests
  • Ecosystem scaling
  • Fernow Experimental Forest
  • Foliar N
  • Hardwood species
  • Soil nitrogen
  • Spatial variation
  • Topography
  • West Virginia


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