Comparing decadal responses of whole-watershed manipulations at the Bear Brook and Fernow experiments.
The Bear Brook Watershed in Maine (BBWM), USA, and the Fernow Experimental Forest in West Virginia, USA, represent unique, long-term, paired, whole watershed, experimental manipulations focusing on the effects of nitrogen (N) and sulfur (S) deposition on temperate forests. Both watersheds began whole-ecosystem additions of N and S as (NH(4))(2)SO(4) in the fall of 1989, and both are entering their third decade of chronic enrichment of the treated watersheds, while the reference watersheds offer unique opportunities to evaluate forest watershed responses to recovery. Differences between BBWM and Fernow in the history of atmospheric deposition, soil properties, and forest composition all contribute to different response trajectories in stream chemical exports over time. The four watersheds represent a spectrum of N enrichment and retention, ranging from ≈98% N retention in the reference watershed in Maine, to ≈20% N retention in the treated watershed in West Virginia. Despite these differences, there is evidence that mechanisms of response in base cation leaching and other processes are similar among all four watersheds. In both cases, the history to date of two decades of research and monitoring has provided new insights into ecosystem response not evident in more traditional short-term research.