The spatial pattern of nitrogen cycling in the adirondack park, New York

Brenden E. McNeil, Jane M. Read, Timothy J. Sullivan, Todd C. McDonnell, Ivan J. Fernandez, Charles T. Driscoll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Maps of canopy nitrogen obtained through analysis of high-resolution, hyperspectral, remotely sensed images now offer a powerful means to make landscape-scale to regional-scale estimates of forest N cycling and net primary production (NPP). Moreover, recent research has suggested that the spatial variability within maps of canopy N may be driven by environmental gradients in such features as historic forest disturbance, temperature, species composition, moisture, geology, and atmospheric N deposition. Using the wide variation in these six features found within the diverse forest ecosystems of the 2.5 million ha Adirondack Park, New York, USA, we examined linkages among environmental gradients and three measures of N cycling collected during the 2003 growing season: (1) field survey of canopy N, (2) field survey of soil C:N, and (3) canopy N measured through analysis of two 185 × 7.5 km Hyperion hyperspectral images. These three measures of N cycling strongly related to forest type but related poorly to all other environmental gradients. Further analysis revealed that the spatial pattern in N cycling appears to have distinct inter- and intraspecific components of variability. The interspecific component, or the proportional contribution of species functional traits to canopy biomass, explained 93% of spatial variability within the field canopy N survey and 37% of variability within the soil C:N survey. Residual analysis revealed that N deposition accounted for an additional 2% of variability in soil C:N, and N deposition and historical forest disturbance accounted for an additional 2.8% of variability in canopy N. Given our finding that 95.8% of the variability in the field canopy N survey could be attributed to variation in the physical environment, our research suggests that remotely sensed maps of canopy N may be useful not only to assess the spatial variability in N cycling and NPP, but also to unravel the relative importance of their multiple controlling factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)438-452
Number of pages15
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2008


  • Adirondack park
  • Atmospheric nitrogen deposition
  • Foliar nitrogen
  • Forest disturbance
  • Functional trait
  • Hyperspectral remote sensing
  • Nitrogen cycling
  • Spatial variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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