Declining forest health has been observed during the past several decades in several areas of the eastern USA, and some of this decline is attributed to acid deposition. Decreases in soil pH and increases in soil acidity are indicators of potential impacts on tree growth due to acid inputs and Al toxicity. The Cherry River watershed, which lies within the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, has some of the highest rates of acid deposition in Appalachia. East and West areas within the watershed, which showed differences in precipitation, stream chemistry, and vegetation composition, were compared to evaluate soil acidity conditions and to assess their degree of risk on tree growth. Thirty-one soil pits in the West area and 36 pits in the East area were dug and described, and soil samples from each horizon were analyzed for chemical parameters. In A horizons, East area soils averaged 3.7 pH with 9.4 cmol c kg-1 of acidity compared to pH 4.0 and 6.2 cmol c kg-1 of acidity in West area soils. Extractable cations (Ca, Mg, and Al) were significantly higher in the A, transition, and upper B horizons of East versus West soils. However, even with differences in cation concentrations, Ca/Al molar ratios were similar for East and West soils. For both sites using the Ca/Al ratio, a 50% risk of impaired tree growth was found for A horizons, while a 75% risk was found for deeper horizons. Low concentrations of base cations and high extractable Al in these soils translate into a high degree of risk for forest regeneration and tree growth after conventional tree harvesting.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Science(all)
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law