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Acid Sensitive Adirondacks

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About the Acid Sensitive Adirondacks

The Acid Sensitive Adirondacks are the largest region within the Adirondacks, a region located in northern New York State. This region makes up the bulk of the western portion of these mountains, and two small, discontinuous pieces in the north and south. This is a mid-elevation region characterized by underlying bedrock with low acid-neutralizing capacity. This region represents the region of North America most severely damaged by acid rain owing to an unfortunate combination of geology, climate, and location relative to industry.

The region has a humid continental climate with high precipitation. Weather systems arrive from the west, bringing emissions from industry and power plants that cause acid-precipitation. This region has had its lakes and streams severely acidified, many to the point that fish can no longer survive in them. Although the damage is often more evident in bodies of water, the acid rain has also affected the terrestrial ecosystems here. This region was already relatively poor in calcium, but the higher acidity has increased leaching of this mineral, which is essential for all life. The acidic conditions also release aluminum to bioavailable forms, where it can kill tree roots, making trees more susceptible to cold and drought.

However, acid rain has been decreasing, and is less of a problem now than it was at its peak.

Tree cover here is more conifer-heavy than regions to the east, owing both conifers' greater adaptation to acidic and leached soils, and also to other conditions that create a high water table and thinner soils throughout much of this region. On shallow, saturated soils, tree cover is mostly red spruce, white spruce, black spruce, and balsam fir, with some red maple, yellow birch, and black cherry, and an understory of sheep laurel and blueberries. Bogs and swamps are dominated by tamarack and black spruce, along with understories of sheep laurel and Labrador tea. On sites with deeper soils, northern hardwood forests can be found, containing sugar maple, American beech, and yellow birch.

This region is surrounded to the north and southwest by the Northern and Western Adirondack Foothills. To the east it is bordered by the Central Adirondacks, which also borders the isolated northern part of this region to the south. There is a smaller border to the southeast with the Eastern Adirondack Foothills, which also surround the isolated southern portion of this region. At the east end of this region, it also surrounds a few small isolated peaks of the Upper Montane / Alpine Zone, which encompasses only the highest elevations.

References

1. Bryce, S.A., Griffith, G.E., Omernik, J.M., Edinger, G., Indrick, S., Vargas, O., and Carlson, D. "Ecoregions of New York (Poster)", U.S. Geological Survey (2010) Web.