Effects of soil calcium and aluminum on the physiology of balsam fir and red spruce saplings in northern New England

TitleEffects of soil calcium and aluminum on the physiology of balsam fir and red spruce saplings in northern New England
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsBoyce, RL, Schaberg, PG, Hawley, GJ, Halman, JM, Murakami, PF
Pagination1657 - 1667
Date Published2013///
KeywordsAbies balsamea, Antioxidant enzyme activity, Chlorophyll fluorescence, Foliar cations, Picea rubens, Soluble carbohydrates

We examined the influence of calcium (Ca) and aluminum (Al) nutrition on the foliar physiology of red spruce (Picea rubens Sarg.) and balsam fir [Abies balsamea (L.) Mill.] in northern New England, USA. At the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest (NH, USA), spruce and fir saplings were sampled from control, Al-, and Ca-supplemented plots at a long-established nutrient perturbation (NuPert) study in fall 2008. Measurements included cation concentrations (roots and foliage), dark-adapted chlorophyll fluorescence (Fv/Fm), soluble sugar concentrations, and ascorbate peroxidase (APX) and glutathione reductase (GR) activity in current-year foliage. Additional untreated saplings were sampled from base-rich Sleepers River (VT) and base-poor Jeffers Brook (NH) for Fv/Fm and foliar nutrient concentrations. At NuPert, there were significantly greater Ca concentrations and Ca:Al ratios in roots from the Ca end vs. the Al end of the Al-control-Ca addition gradient. There were also trends toward greater foliar Ca and Ca:Al ratios and lower Al concentrations across the treatment gradient at NuPert and for foliage at Sleepers River vs. Jeffers Brook. At NuPert, Fv/Fm and APX activity increased across the treatment gradient, and red spruce was higher in these measures than balsam fir. These patterns were also observed when Jeffers Brook and Sleepers River were compared. Increased Ca availability appeared to enhance the ability of red spruce and balsam fir to repair oxidative stress damage, including photooxidation. Our findings support work indicating a greater contemporary level of stress for balsam fir relative to red spruce, which is surprising considering the well-documented regional decline of spruce.