Acidification of forested podzols in North Belgium during the period 1950-2000

A. de Schrijver, Jan Mertens, Guy Geudens, Jeroen Staelens, Elke Campforts, Sebastiaan Luyssaert, Ludwig De Temmerman, Luc De Keersmaeker, Stefaan De Neve, Kris Verheyen

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    Acidification of forest soils in Europe and North America has been an important concern over the last decades. The last area-covering survey of forest soil acidification in Flanders (North Belgium) goes back to 1985 [Ronse A, De Temmerman L, Guns M, De Borger R. Evolution of acidity, organic matter content, and CEC in uncultivated soils of North Belgium during the past 25 years. Soil Sci; 146, (1988), 453-460] and highlighted a significant acidification of the upper layer (0.3-0.4 m) of forested podzols during the period 1950-1985. The present study aimed to assess (1) to what extent further acidification of forested podzols occurred during the period 1985-2000 at different depths and (2) whether the average annual acidification rate accelerated or slowed down between 1985 and 2000 compared to the period 1950-1985. Average soil pH-KCl values of podzols in northern Belgium dropped during the period 1985-2000. This decline extends to a depth of about 50 cm but was most pronounced and significant in the A horizon. In the A0, A1 and A2 horizons, average pH dropped with 0.2, 0.3 and 0.1 units, and in the Bir and C horizons with 0.1 units. No change in average pH value occurred in the Bh horizon. Average annual acidification rate of the A1 horizon was significantly higher in the period 1985-2000 than in the period 1950-1985. Changes in pH occurred in the entire soil profile during the period 1950/67-1985 likely because sulphate was the major form of acid deposition before 1985. After 1985, acid sulphur deposition decreased with more than 50% in North Belgium. In contrast, ammonium deposition almost doubled between 1950 and 1980, which may explain why soil acidification between 1985 and 2000 has been restricted to the upper soil horizons.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)189-195
    Number of pages7
    JournalScience of the Total Environment
    Issue number1-3
    Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2006


    • Acidification
    • Acidification rate
    • Forest
    • North Belgium
    • pH-KCl
    • Podzols


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