Long-term monitoring of mountain birch populations (1992–2006) was performed in 14 test plots located at distances of 1 to 63 km from the copper-nickel smelter in Monchegorsk (Murmansk oblast) and differing in the degree of disturbance. In the period from 1999 to 2006, atmospheric emissions of sulfur dioxide and heavy metals amounted to only one-third of those between 1992 and 1998, but birch mortality in heavily polluted areas (with nickel concentrations in leaves exceeding 160 mg/kg) remained at the same level, being absent (as previously) in less polluted areas. Throughout the observation period, birch recruitment was observed only in areas where nickel concentrations in the leaves were below 160 mg/kg; i.e., this concentration proved to be the threshold with respect to both mortality and recruitment of mountain birch. The course of demographic processes in its populations has remained unchanged after the reduction of emissions, confirming the hypothesis of the “inertial“ effect of industrial emissions on ecosystems. In some areas of industrial barrens, mountain birch may perish completely within the next decade.
Russian Journal of Ecology – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 11, 2009
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