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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Department Soil Ecology - Prof. Dr. Eva Lehndorff

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Matzner, E; Murach, D: Soil changes induced by air pollutant deposition and their implication for forests in Central Europe, Water, Air and Soil Pollution, 85, 63-76 (1995)
A survey of leaf and needle losses of European forests in 1993 revealed that 23% of the total forested area had defoliation of more than 25%. The focus of this defoliation is in Central Europe, namely in Poland, Slowakia, Czech Republic, and Germany. The annual surveys of leaf losses and discoloration indicated only small changes during the last years for the coniferous forests in Germany. However, the increasing leaf losses of oak and beech during the last years were alarming. Evaluating the potential relation between air pollutant deposition, soil changes and forest damage, we focus here on the recent changes in deposition and soil conditions, and their implication on tree root development and drought susceptability of trees. While deposition of SO42, tC and Ca 2+ in many Central European forests decreased in the last decade, input of NH4 + and NO 3" remained high or even increased. The H + load of many forest soils today is thus still high compared to weathering rates, but the proportion of the H + load resulting from turnover of deposited N has increased. Recent effects of changing depositions on acid forest soils were: depletion of soil M-pools, release of formerly stored soil SO ?, accumulation of N in soil organic matter, increasing N availability to trees and decreasing concentration of Ca ~+ in the soil solution. We hypothesise that soil acidification and increased N availability will decrease the free root biomass of trees and shift the rooting zone to upper soil layers. Increased above ground growth, observed in many areas of Europe, will furthermore decrease the root/shoot ratio. This development will finally cause increased drought suseeptability of trees and is thus of destabilizing nature. The proposed chain of events might be overlapped by other effects of air pollutants on forest ecosystems, namely direct effects of gases on leaves, nutritional inbalances, and interactions with pests. Key words: Forest damage, soil acidity, N-saturation, acid deposition, root growth, drought
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