Lithology influences forest carbon storage and productivity yet is often overlooked for forests of the eastern United States, a large and important carbon sink. This research explores the influence of two common lithologies of the Ridge and Valley physiographic province in the Appalachian Mountains, shales and sandstones, on live aboveground carbon storage, carbon uptake, forest community composition and their interrelationships. We couple forest inventory data from 565 plots from Pennsylvania state agencies with a suite of GIS derived landscape metrics including measures of climate, topography and soil physical properties to identify biotic and abiotic drivers of live forest carbon dynamics in relation to lithology. Forests growing on shale bedrock store more live aboveground carbon compared to forests on sandstone when controlling for stand age, which ranged from 20 to 200 years. Furthermore, forests in the dominant ages (81–120 years) store more live aboveground carbon (108.1 Mg/ha vs. 86.5 Mg/ha) and uptake live aboveground carbon at a faster rate (1.32 Mg/ha/yr vs 0.85 Mg/ha/yr) on shale compared to sandstone respectively. Overall forest communities on both lithologies are dominated by oaks (Quercus spp.), however northern red oak (Q. rubra) is more dominant at shale sites compared to chestnut oak (Q. prinus), which dominates on sandstone. Most species in the forest tend to be more productive on shale, which may account for differences in carbon pools and fluxes across the landscape. Tree species richness is higher in sites on shale bedrock, but biodiversity-productivity relationships within lithologic classifications fail to account for differences in forest productivity. Modeled live aboveground carbon storage points to topography (elevation and aspect) and soil physical properties (% clay and available water capacity) as important influences on forest productivity that related back to lithology. Incorporating lithology into forest management strategies that are focused on a variety of ecosystem services can aid future site selection, and we demonstrate that forests on shale bedrock grow faster, store more carbon and have higher species diversity. The results presented here highlight the potential for underlying bedrock to exert differential influences on forest ecosystem structure and function across a region.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law