Soil Acidification and Decline of Trees in Forests Within the Precincts of Shrines in Kyoto (Japan)
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- Ito, K., Uchiyama, Y., Kurokami, N. et al. Water Air Soil Pollut (2011) 214: 197. doi:10.1007/s11270-010-0416-y
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The historical Japanese city of Kyoto boasts a great many old Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, many of which are surrounded by sizable forests that have long been preserved as sacred forests. However, acidic deposition has been fallen on the forests in Kyoto for many years. For this study, we conducted soil surveys and investigated the extent of decline of the trees in two Shinto shrines as historic monuments of ancient Kyoto. Our study revealed clear decline in two key tree species (Cryptomeria japonica (Japanese cedar) and Chamaecyparis obtusa (Japanese cypress)) in both shrines, with some trees showing signs of mortality. The soil was acidic, with an average pH of 4.35. Nutrient salt content too was only about one tenth the national average, with exchangeable Ca (0.52 cequiv./kg) and Mg (0.23 cequiv./kg) for 0–20 cm surface soil. The (Ca+Mg+K)/Al molar ratios were also very low, with 80% of all soil samples having a ratio of 10 or below. Such soil conditions are thought to hamper the sound growth of both Japanese cedar and Japanese cypress, and soil acidification is one of the most likely causes of the decline of temple and shrine forests in Kyoto.