Dendrochemical Analysis of Lead and Calcium in Southern Appalachian American Beech

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The health of the northern hardwood forest in the southern Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia has gained attention from the media and environmental stakeholders due to a purported decline in forest health at higher elevations. This project examined lead (Pb) and calcium (Ca) concentrations in growth rings of an important northern hardwood species, American beech (Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.) at Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain, Virginia and attempted to examine concentration relationships with stem growth patterns. Dominant and codominant trees were sampled from 16 research plots at two elevations. Tree cores were crossdated, divided into sections of 10-yr periods, and analyzed using atomic absorption spectroscopy. Lead concentrations correlated negatively with ring width. Elevation and aspect were significantly associated with the Pb concentration, while Ca concentrations were only associated with aspect. Tree core samples taken from higher elevation plots contained higher Pb concentrations than samples collected from lower elevation plots, while the northwest and southwest aspects contained significantly higher amounts of Pb and Ca. Both Pb and Ca concentrations increased during the 1860s and again during the mid-1900s.