Water, Air, and Soil Pollution

, Volume 60, Issue 3–4, pp 301–313

Soil chemical and microbial effects of simulated acid rain on clover and soft chess

  • John G. McColl
  • Mary K. Firestone


Effects of simulated acid rain, comprised of HNO3 and H2SO4 in the mole ratio of 3:1, at pH 5.6, 4.5, 4.0 and 3.0, were tested on the grass, soft chess (Bromus mollis L.) and on clover (Trifolium subterraneum L. var. Woogenellup) in a sandy soil of granodiorite parent material. Soft chess was grown in unfertilized soil, whereas clover was grown in both unfertilized soil and soil fertilized with NH4NO3 and CaSO4·2H2O at the rates of 224 kg ha−1 N and 78 kg ha−1 S. Two acid-spray irrigation periods of 31 and 26 weeks duration, each delivering 400 mm and separated by a dry period of 23 weeks, simulated typical rainfall of northern California rangeland. Plants were harvested after each of the two spray periods. There were very few deleterious effects of acid rain on plant growth or soil and microbial processes. No significant (p<0.05) effects were shown by soil microbial biomass, CO2 production, nodules per unit weight of clover root, acetylene reduction, denitrification and nitrification potentials, or for soft chess plant weights, and N and P uptake. Mineralizable-N was unaffected also, except in one case. However, pH of soil to 10 mm depths was significantly lower in the pH 3.0 treatment after the first spray period, with a corresponding decrease in exchangeable soil Ca; these effects became significant at greater soil depth only after the second spray period. There were significant effects of acid treatments shown by clover, some of which may be advantageous. Treatments of intermediate acidity generally provided added N and S, which acted as fertilizers, and compensated for possible decreases in plant productivity attributable to acidity per se. There was also evidence of decreased P uptake in unfertilized soil at pH 3. In conclusion, effects of simulated acid rain were minimal, and in some cases were advantageous because of the added N and S having a fertilizer effect on plant nutrition and growth.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aber, J. D., Nadelhoffer, K. J., Steudler, P., and Mellilo, J. M.: 1989, BioScience 39, 378.Google Scholar
  2. Belser, L. W. and Mays, E. L.: 1980, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 39, 505.Google Scholar
  3. Black, C. A.: 1965, Methods of Soil Analysis, Am. Soc. Agron., Inc., Madison, WI.Google Scholar
  4. Chapman, H. D.: 1965, ‘Cation Exchange Capacity’, in A. Black et al. (ed.), Methods of Soil Analysis, Part 2C Agronomy 9, 891.Google Scholar
  5. Evans, L. S.: 1984a, Ann. Rev. Phytopathol. 22, 397.Google Scholar
  6. Evans, L. S.: 1984b, Bot. Rev. 50, 449.Google Scholar
  7. Francis, A. J., Olson, D., and Bernatsky, R.: 1980, ‘Effect of Acidity on Microbial Processes in a Forest Soil’, in D. Drablos and A. Tollan (eds.), Ecological Impact of Acid Precipitation, Proc. Int. Conf. Sandefjord, Norway. March 11–14, 1980. SNSF-project, Oslo, Norway, pp. 166–167.Google Scholar
  8. Heady, H. F.: 1977, ‘Valley Grassland’, in M. G. Barbour and J. Major (eds.), Terrestrial Vegetation of California, John Wiley & Sons, New York, pp. 491–514.Google Scholar
  9. Holmgren, G. G. S., June, R. L., and Geschwender, R. C.: 1977, Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 41, 1207.Google Scholar
  10. Irving, P. M.: 1983, J. Environ. Qual 12, 442.Google Scholar
  11. Irving, P. M.: 1987, Environ. Tech. Letters 8, 451.Google Scholar
  12. Jenkinson, D. S. and Poulson, D. S.: 1976, Soil Biol. Biochem. 8, 209.Google Scholar
  13. Johnson, C. M. and Ulrich, A.: 1959, Analytical Methods for Use in Plant Analysis. Calif. Agric. Exp. Stn. Bull. 766, Berkeley, CA.Google Scholar
  14. Keeny, D. R. and Nelson, D. W.: 1982, ‘Nitrogen-inorganic Forms’, in A. L. Page et al. (eds.), Methods of Soil Analysis, Part. 2. 2nd ed. Agronomy 9, 643.Google Scholar
  15. Kohno, Y. and Kobayashi, T.: 1989, Water, Air, and Soil Pollut. 45, 173.Google Scholar
  16. Kuja, A. and Dixon, M.: 1989, Water, Air, and Soil Pollut. 45, 301.Google Scholar
  17. Major, J.: 1977, ‘California Climate in Relation to Vegetation’, in M. G. Barbour and J. Major (eds.), Terrestrial Vegetation of California, John Wiley & Sons, New York, pp. 11–74.Google Scholar
  18. McColl, J. G. 1982. ‘Atmospheric Deposition of Nitrogen and Sulfur in Northern California’, in L. H. Keith (ed.), Energy and Environmental Chemistry, Vol. 2. Am. Chem. Soc., Ann Arbor Science, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI, pp. 123–144.Google Scholar
  19. McColl, J. G. and Firestone, M. K.: 1987, Soil. Sci. Soc. Am. J., 51, 794.Google Scholar
  20. McColl, J. G., Monette, L. K., and Bush, D. S.: 1982, J. Environ. Qual. 11, 585.Google Scholar
  21. National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program (NAPAP): 1988, Annual Report 1987 to the President and Congress. National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program, Office of the Director, 722 Jackson Place, NW, Washington, D.C. 20503.Google Scholar
  22. Norby, R. J., Takemoto, B. K., Johnston, J. W., and Shriner, D. S.: 1986, Environ. Exp. Bot. 26, 285.Google Scholar
  23. Plocher, M. D., Pertigan, S. C., Hevel, R. J., Cooper, R. M., and Moss, D. N.: 1985, ‘Simulated Acid Rain on Crops’., Spec. Rep. 739. Agric. Exp. Sta., Oregon State Univ., Corvallis, OR. 64 pp.Google Scholar
  24. Shriner, D. S., Abner, C. H., and Mann, K.: 1977, ‘Rainfall Simulation for Environmental Application’, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Environ. Sci. Div., Publ. No. 1067.Google Scholar
  25. Shriner, D. S. and Johnston, J. W.: 1981, Environ. Exp. Bot. 21, 199.Google Scholar
  26. Smith, S. J. and Stanford, G.: 1971, Soil Sci. 111, 228.Google Scholar
  27. Strayer, R. F., Lin. C. J., and Alexander, M.: 1981, J. Environ. Qual. 10, 547–551.Google Scholar
  28. Tiedje, J. M.: 1982, ‘Denitrification’ in A. L. Page et al. (ed.), Methods of Soil Analysis, Part. 2, Agronomy 9, 1011.Google Scholar
  29. Wainwright, M.: 1980, Plant Soil 55, 199.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • John G. McColl
    • 1
  • Mary K. Firestone
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Soil Science, 108 Hilgard HallUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

Personalised recommendations