Water, Air, and Soil Pollution

, Volume 178, Issue 1–4, pp 287–295 | Cite as

Heathland Restoration on Former Agricultural Land: Effects of Artificial Acidification on the Availability and Uptake of Toxic Metal Cations

  • I. GreenEmail author
  • J. Stockdale
  • M. Tibbett
  • A. Diaz


Lowland heath is an internationally important habitat type that has greatly declined in abundance throughout Western Europe. In recent years this has led to a growing interest in the restoration of heathland on agricultural land. This generally requires the use of chemical treatments to return soil chemical conditions to those appropriate for the support of heathland ecosystems. However, the potential for negative impacts on the environment due to the potential of these treatments to increase the availability of trace metals via raised soil acidity requires investigation. A large-scale field study investigated the effect of two chemical treatments used in heathland restoration, elemental sulphur and ferrous sulphate, on soil acidity and whether it is possible to predict the effect of the treatments on availability of two potentially toxic cations (Al and Cd) in the soil along with their subsequent accumulation in the shoots of the grass Agrostis capillaris. Results showed that both treatments decreased soil pH, but that only elemental sulphur produced a pH similar to heathland soil. The availability of Al, measured by extraction with 1 M ammonium nitrate, could not be predicted by soil pH, depth in the soil and total Al concentration in the soil. By contrast, availability of Cd could be predicted from these three variables. Concentrations of both Al and Cd in the shoots of A. capillaris showed no significant relationship with the extractable concentration in the soil. Results are discussed in light of the possible environmental impacts of the chemical restoration techniques.


aluminium cadmium heathland restoration elemental sulphur ferrous sulphate environmental impact 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Baker, A., & Walker, P. (1989). Physiological responses of plants to heavy metals and the quantification of tolerance and toxicity. Chemical Speciation & Bioavailability, 1, 7–17.Google Scholar
  2. Berrow, M. L., & Stein, W. M. (1983). Extraction of metals from soils and sewage sludges by refluxing with aqua regia. Analyst, 108, 227–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boekhold, A. E., Temminghoff, E. J. M., & van der Zee, S. E. A. T. M. (1993). Influence of electrolyte composition and pH on Cadmium sorption by an acid sandy soil. Journal of Soil Science, 44, 85–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Davy, A. J., Dunsford, S. J., & Free, A. J. (1998). Acidifying peat as an aid to the reconstruction of lowland heath on arable soil: Lysimeter experiments. Journal of Applied Ecology, 35, 649–659.Google Scholar
  5. Diaz, A., Green, I. D., Benvenuto, M., Tibbett, M. (2006). Are ericoid mycorrhizas a factor in the success of Calluna vulgaris heathland restoration? Restoration Ecology 14(2), 187–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Diaz, A., Tibbett, M., Haslam, R., & Walker, C. (2003). The restoration of heathland and acid grassland at Hartland and Newline Farms, Report for the National Trust, Countryside Office, Studland, Dorset, UK.Google Scholar
  7. DOE. (1995a). Biodiversity: UK Steering Group Report, Vol 1. Meeting the Rio Challenge, HMSO, London.Google Scholar
  8. DOE. (1995b). Biodiversity: UK Steering Group Report, Vol. 2. Action Plans, HMSO, LondonGoogle Scholar
  9. Farrell, L. (1993). Lowland Heaths: The extent of habitat changes, English Nature Science Report No. 12, English Nature, Peterborough.Google Scholar
  10. Foy, C. D., Sadeghi, A. M., Ritchie, J. C., Krizek, D. T., Davis, J. R., & Kemper, W. D. (1999). Aluminium toxicity and high bulk density: Role in limiting shoot and root growth of selected Aluminium indicator plants and eastern gamagrass in an acid soil. Journal of Plant Nutrition, 22(10), 1551–1566.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Green, I. D., Jeffries, C., Diaz, A., Tibbett, M. (2006). Contrasting behaviour of Cadmium and Zinc in a soil-plant-arthropod system. Chemosphere, in press.Google Scholar
  12. Green, I. D., Merrington, G., & Tibbett, M. (2003). Transfer of Cadmium and Zinc from sewage sludge amended soil through a plant-aphid system to newly emerged adult ladybirds (Coccinella septempunctata). Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 99, 171–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hall, G. E. M., MacLaurin, A. I., & Garrett, R. G. (1998). Assessment of the 1 M NH4NO3 extraction protocol to identify mobile forms of Cd in soils. Journal of Geochemical Exploration, 64, 153–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hamon, R. E., Holm, P. E., Lorenz, S. E., McGrath, S. P., & Christensen, T. H. (1999). Metal uptake by plants from sludge-amended soils: Caution is required in the plateau interpretation. Plant and Soil, 216, 53–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Häni, H., & Gupta, S. (1984). Reasons to use neutral salt solutions to assess the metal impact on land and soils. In R. Leschber, R. D. Davis, & P. L’Hermite (Eds.), Chemical methods for assessing bio-extractable metals in sludges and soils (pp. 42–47). London: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  16. Hartley-Whitaker, J., Cairney, J. W. G., & Meharg, A. A. (2000). Toxic effects of Cadmium and Zinc on ectomycorrhizal colonization of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) from soil inoculum. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 19(3), 694–699.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jentschke G., & Godbold, D. L. (2000). Metal toxicity and ectomycorrhizas. Physiologia Plantarum, 109(2), 107–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kabata-Pendias, A., & Pendias, H. (1992). Trace elements in soils and plants, Boca Ranton, Florida: CRC.Google Scholar
  19. Lawson, C. S., Ford, M. A., Mitchley, J., & Warren, J. M. (2004). The establishment of heathland vegetation on ex-arable land: The response of Calluna vulgaris to soil acidification. Biological Conservation, 11, 409–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Marrs, R. H. (1993). Soil fertility and nature conservation in Europe: Theoretical considerations and practical management solutions. Advances in Ecological Research, 24, 242–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Marrs, R. H., Snow, C. S. R., Owen, K. M., & Evans, C. E. (1998). Heathland and acid grassland creation on arable soils at Minsmere: Identification of potential problems and a test of cropping to impoverish soils. Biological Conservation, 85(1–2), 69–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. McCrea, A. R., Trueman, I. C., & Fullen, M. A. (2001). A comparison of the effects of four arable crops on the fertility depletion of a sandy silt loam destined for grassland habitat creation. Biological Conservation, 97, 181–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mellum, H. K., Arnesen, A. K. M., & Singh, B. R. (1998). Extractability and plant uptake of heavy metals in alum shale soils. Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis, 29(9&10), 1183–1198.Google Scholar
  24. Merrington, G.,Winder, L., & Green, I. (1997). The uptake of Cd and Zn by the bird cherry oat aphid Rhopalosiphum padi (Homoptera: Aphididae) feeding on wheat grown on sewage sludge amended agricultural soil. Environmental Pollution, 96, 111–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mitchell R. J., Auld, M. H. D., Hughes, J. M., & Marrs, R. H. (2000). Estimates of nutrient removal during heathland restoration on successional sites in Dorset, southern England. Biological Conservation, 95(3), 233–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mitchell R. J., Marrs, R. H., Le Duc, M. G., & Auld, M. H. D. (1999). A study of the restoration of heathland on successional sites: Changes in vegetation and soil chemical properties. Journal of Applied Ecology, 36(5), 770–783.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Moore, N. W. (1962). The heaths of Dorset and their conservation. Journal of Ecology, 50, 369–391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Owen, K. M., & Marrs, R. H. (2000). Creation of heathland on former arable land at Minsmere, Sulfolk, UK: The effects of soil acidification on the establishment of Calluna and ruderal species. Biological Conservation, 93, 9–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Owen, K. M., & Marrs, R. H. (2001). The use of mixtures of Sulphur and bracken litter to reduce pH of former arable soils and control ruderal plant species. Restoration Ecology, 9, 397–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Owen, K. M., Marrs, R. H., Snow, C. S. R., & Evans, C. E. (1999). Soil acidification – The use of Sulphur and acidic plant materials to acidify arable soils for the recreation of heathland and acidic grassland at Minsmere, UK. Biological Conservation, 87, 105–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Park, S. J., & Burt, T. P. (1999). The distribution of solute processes on an acid hill-slope and the delivery of solutes to a stream. II. Exchangeable Al3+. Earth Surface Landforms, 24, 851–865.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pywell, R. F., Webb, N. R., & Putwain, P. D. (1994). Soil fertility and its implications for the restoration of heathland on farmland in southern Britain. Biological Conservation, 70, 169–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pywell, R. F, Webb, N. R., & Putwain, P. D. (1995). A comparison of techniques for restoring heathland on abandoned farmland. Journal of Applied Ecology, 32, 400–411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rai, L. C., Husaini, Y., & Mallick, N. (1998). pH-altered interaction of Aluminium and Fluoride on nutrient uptake, photosynthesis and other variables of Chlorella vulgaris. Aquatic Toxicology, 42(1), 67–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Raven, K. P., & Loeppert, R. H. (1997). Trace element composition of fertilisers and soil amendments. Journal of Environmental Quality, 26, 551–557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rieuwerts, J. S., Thornton, I., Farago, M. E., & Ashmore, M. R. (1998). Factors influencing metal bioavailability in soils: Preliminary investigations for the development of a critical loads approach for metals. Chemical Speciation and Bioavailability, 10(2), 61–75.Google Scholar
  37. Roberts, R. D., & Johnson, M. S. (1978). Dispersal of heavy metals from abandoned mine workings and their transference through terrestrial food-chains. Environmental Pollution, 16, 293–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Salt, S. E., Prince, R. C., Pickering, I. J., & Raskin, I. (1995). Mechanisms of Cadmium mobility and accumulation in Indian mustard. Plant Physiology, 109, 1427–1433.Google Scholar
  39. Sauerbeck, D. R., & Stypereck, P. (1984) Evaluation of chemical methods for assessing the Cd and Zn bioavailability from different soils and sources. In R. Leschber, R. D. Davis, & P. L’Hermite (Eds.), Chemical methods for assessing bio-extractable metals in sludges and soils (pp. 49–67). London: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  40. Sauve, S., Norvel, W. A., & McBride, M. (2000). Speciation and complexation of Cadmium in extracted soil solutions. Environmental Science and Technology, 34(2), 291–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tesfaye, M., Temple, S. J., Allan, D. L., Vance, C. P., & Samac, D. A. (2001). Overexpression of malate dehydrogenase in transgenic alfalfa enhances organic acid synthesis and confer tolerance to Aluminum. Plant Physiology, 127(4), 1836–1844.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Tibbett, M., & Diaz, A. (2005). Are sulphurous soil amendments (S0, Fe(II)SO4, Fe(III)SO4) an effective tool in the restoration of heathland and acidic grassland after four decades of rock phosphate fertilization. Restoration Ecology, 13(1), 83–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tyler, G. (2004). Vertical distribution of major, minor, and rare elements in a Haplic Podzol. Geoderma, 119, 277–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Tyler, G., & Olsson, T. (2001). Concentrations of 60 element in the soil solution as related to the soil acidity. European Journal of Soil Science, 52(1), 151–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. van Hees, P., Lundström, U., Danielsson, R., & Nyberg, L. (2001). Controlling mechanisms of Aluminium in soil solution – An evaluation of 180 podzolic forest soils. Chemosphere, 45, 1091–1101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. van Straalen, N. M., & Ernst, W. H. O. (1991). Metal biomagnification may endanger species in critical pathways. Oikos, 62, 225–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wainwright, M. (1984). Sulphur oxidation in soils. Advances in Agronomy, 37, 349–396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Webb, N. R. (1986). Heathlands, London: Collins.Google Scholar
  49. Webb, N. R. (1990). Changes on the heathlands of Dorset, England, between 1978 and 1987. Biological Conservation, 51, 273–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Centre for Ecology and Conservation Biology, The School of Conservation SciencesBournemouth UniversityPooleUK
  2. 2.Centre for Land Rehabilitation, School of Earth and Geographical Sciences, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural SciencesThe University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia

Personalised recommendations