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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 21 No. 4, p. 614-623
    Received: Nov 15, 1991

    * Corresponding author(s):


Ion Leaching in Forest Ecosystems along a Great Lakes Air Pollution Gradient

  1. N. W. MacDonald *,
  2. A. J. Burton,
  3. H. O. Liechty,
  4. J. A. Witter,
  5. K. S. Pregitzer,
  6. G. D. Mroz and
  7. D. D. Richter
  1. School of Natural Resources, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1115;
    Dep. of Forestry, Michigan State Univ., E. Lansing, MI 48824-1222;
    School of Forestry and Wood Products, Michigan Tech. Univ., Houghton, MI 49931;
    School of the Environment, Duke Univ., Durham, NC 27706.



A gradient of H+, SO2−4, and NO3 deposition across the Great Lakes region raised concerns over impacts on soil solution chemistry and ion leaching in regional forest ecosystems. Ten study sites representing northern hardwood and oak ecosystems were established across the gradient of increasing deposition from Minnesota to Ohio. Lysimeters were installed at lower E and lower B horizon boundaries at each site and sampled over a 2-yr period. In soil solutions collected at lower E horizon boundaries, H+ and SO2−4 wet deposition were correlated with solution concentrations of SO2−4 r = 0.82** and 0.92**) and Mg2+ (r = 0.75** and 0.85**), and with the SO2−4/inorganic anion ratio (r = 0.71** and 0.70**). In soil solutions collected at lower B horizon boundaries, SO2−4 deposition was correlated with solution SO2−4 concentrations (r = 0.92**). Greater ionic outputs from B horizons than atmospheric inputs indicated that net losses of Ca2+ and Mg2+ were occurring from all sites. Sulfate outputs above background levels contributed 33 to 2367 molc SO2−4 ha−1 yr−1 from north to south along the gradient, equal to 3.7 to 71.7% of annual cation outputs. Excess H+ deposition accounted for 8 to 34% of annual cation outputs from north to south, and as much as 72% at one site with coarse-textured soils. Elevated cation losses related to H+ and SO2−4 deposition indicate that cation depletion remains a plausible consequence of pollutant deposition to forest ecosystems with poorly buffered soils.

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