Dendrochemical and biochemical markers link stress in apparently healthy red spruce frees (Picea rubens) to acidic deposition. Acidic deposition to spruce forests of the northeastern USA increased sharply during the 1960s. Previous reports related visible damage of trees at high elevations to root and soil processes. In this report, dendrochemical and foliar biochemical markers indicate perturbations in biological processes in healthy red spruce trees across the northeastern USA. Previous research on the dendrochemistry of red spruce stemwood indicated that under uniform environmental conditions, stemwood concentrations of Ca and Mg decreased with increasing radial distance from the pith. For nine forest locations, frequency analysis shows that 28 and 52% of samples of red spruce stemwood formed in the 1960s are enriched in Ca and Mg, respectively, relative to wood formed prior to and after the 1960s. This enrichment in trees throughout the northeastern USA may be interpretable as a signal of increased availability of essential cations in forest soils. Such a temporary increase in the availability of Ca and Mg could be caused by cation mobilization, a consequence of increased acidic deposition. During cation mobilization, essential Ca and Mg as well as potentially harmful Al become more available for interaction with binding sites in the soil and absorbing roots. As conditions which favor cation mobilization continue, Ca and Mg can be leached or displaced from the soil.
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