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    Nitrogen (N) pollution is a growing concern in forests of the greater Sierra Nevada, which lie downwind of the highly populated and agricultural Central Valley. Nitrogen content of Letharia vulpina tissue was analyzed from 38 sites using total Kjeldahl analysis to provide a preliminary assessment of N deposition patterns. Collections were co-located with plots where epiphytic macrolichen communities are used for estimating ammonia (NH3) deposition. Tissue N ranged from 0.6% to 2.11% with the highest values occurring in the southwestern Sierra Nevada (range: 1.38 to 2.11). Tissue N at 17 plots was elevated, as defined by a threshold concentration of 1.03%. Stepwise regression was used to determine the best predictors of tissue N from among a variety of environmental variables. The best model consisted only of longitude (r2 = 0.64), which was reflected in the geographic distribution of tissue values: the southwestern Sierra Nevada, the high Sierras near the Tahoe Basin, and the Modoc Plateau, are three apparent N hotspots arranged along the tilted north-south axis of the study area. Withholding longitude and latitude, the best regression model suggested that NH3 estimates and annual number of wetdays interactively affect N accumulation (r2 = 0.61; % N ~ NH3 + wetdays + (NH3 × wetdays)). We did not expect perfect correspondence between tissue values and NH3 estimates since other N pollutants also accumulate in the lichen thallus. Additionally, other factors potentially affecting N content, such as growth rate and leaching, were not given full account.

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    Jovan, Sarah; Carlberg, Tom. 2007. Nitrogen content of Letharia vulpina tissue from forests of the Sierra Nevada, California: geographic patterns and relationships to ammonia estimates and climate. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. 129(1-3): 243-251.


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    agriculture, air pollution, ammonia, bioindication, California, forest health, Letharia vulpina, lichens, National Parks, nitrogen, nitrophytes, Sierra Nevada

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