Impact of declining atmospheric deposition on forest soil solution chemistry in Flanders, Belgium

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    Throughout Europe and the USA, forest ecosystem functioning has been impacted by long-term excessive deposition of acidifying compounds. In this study, we report on trends in stand deposition and soil solution fluxes of inorganic nitrogen (N) and sulphur (S) compounds over a 17-year period (1994e2010) in five ICP Forests monitoring plots in Flanders, northern Belgium. Deposition was dominated by N, and primarily NH4 þ. Deposition of SO4 2 and NH4 þ declined by 56e68% and 40e59% respectively. Deposition of NO 3 decreased by 17e30% in deciduous forest plots, but remained stable in coniferous forest plots. The decrease of N and S deposition was parallelled by a simultaneous decline in base cation (BC ¼ Ca2þ þ Kþ þ Mg2þ) deposition, resulting in a 45e74% decrease of potentially acidifying deposition. Trends in soil solution fluxes of NH4 þ, NO3 , SO4 2 and BC mirrored declining depositions. Nitrate losses below the rooting zone were eminent in both coniferous forest plots and in one deciduous forest plot, while net SO4 2 release was observed in two deciduous forest plots. Critical limits for BC/Al ratio were exceeded at the three plots on sandy soils with lower cation exchange capacity and base saturation. Soil solution acid neutralizing capacity increased but remained negative, indicating that soil acidification continued, as the start of recovery was delayed by a simultaneous decrease of BC depositions and shortterm soil buffering processes. Despite substantial reductions, current N deposition levels still exceed 4e8 times the critical load for safeguarding sensitive lichen species, and are still 22e69% above the critical load for maintaining ground vegetation diversity.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalAtmospheric Environment
    Pages (from-to)50-63
    Number of pages14
    Publication statusPublished - 2012

    Thematic list

    • Eutrophication
    • Acidification

    EWI Biomedical sciences

    • B003-ecology
    • bossen


    • air pollution emission policy
    • woodland protection
    • soil protection

    Geographic list

    • Flanders


    • statistics and modelling


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