Determination of calcium, magnesium, and aluminum in Fraser fir (Abies fraseri) foliage and surrounding soil in the Great Smoky Mountains, Balsam Mountains, and Black Mountains using inductively-coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Lucas E. Wilson (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
David Butcher

Abstract: The Fraser fir (Abies Fraseri) is a conifer commonly found in the Eastern United States. In the Southern Appalachian Mountains Fraser fir share an ecosystem with Red Spruce (Picea rubens) in island-like stands typically above 1500 m. The Balsam Wooly Adelgid is recognized to be the primary reason for Fraser fir decline in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, but atmospheric deposition may also be involved. Acid deposition allows nutrients calcium (Ca2+) and magnesium (Mg2+) to be leached from soil and foliage, and allows for mobilization of toxic metals like aluminum (Al3+) to become available for interaction with the fir. Investigation of these effects could summarize the intensity of acidic deposition in the Southern Appalachian Mountain ranges studied. Samples of Fraser fir foliage and surrounding soil were gathered from 8 sites in the Great Smoky Mountains, in the Balsam Mountains, and in the Black Mountains. 30 samples were collected from each site, divided into 3 classes of life stage (10 seedlings, 10 saplings, and 10 mature trees). Using an acid digestion method for foliage and a soil extraction method for exchangeable metals in soil, concentrations of calcium, magnesium, and aluminum were found using Inductively-Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectroscopy. Student's t-test, analysis of variance, and linear regression analysis were used to statistically compare the data. There was a considerable amount of correlation between foliar and exchangeable soil metal concentrations as a result of elevation or longitude. The 8 sites were divided in half based on elevation (4 sites above 1900 m, 4 sites below 1900 m), and comparisons were made. Western sites are closer in proximity to coal-burning power plants in Tennessee, so they were expected to exhibit increased effects of acid deposition. Foliar and exchangeable soil metal concentrations were tested against soil pH, and very little correlation was found. Three life stage classes of samples were acquired (seedlings, saplings, and mature trees) and expected to all have statistically similar concentrations of metals in both foliage and soil, but almost all were different. No correlation was found in soil exchangeable metal concentrations and foliar metal concentrations, but a trend existed in soil exchangeable aluminum and foliar calcium concentrations. The data from this experiment was also compared to previous studies from 1969, 1994, and 1996 at two different sites. The comparison to the 1996 study at Clingmans Dome showed differences in foliar magnesium and aluminum concentrations, with decreased toxic metal and increased nutrient concentrations as expected. Differences also existed when comparing foliar nutrient concentrations to the 1969 and 1994 studies at Richland Balsam. Since 1994, a decline in acid deposition related effects was observed, which could show success of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2010
Fraser Fir, ICP-OES
Fir -- Appalachian Region, Southern -- Analysis
Fir -- Appalachian Region, Southern -- Composition
Fir -- Effect of air pollution on -- Appalachian Region, Southern
Fir -- Effect of acid deposition on -- Appalachian Region, Southern
Spectrum analysis

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