, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 39–54 | Cite as

An empirical analysis of the factors contributing to 20-year decrease in soil pH in an old-field plantation of loblolly pine

  • Dan Binkley
  • David Valentine
  • Carol Wells
  • Ute Valentine


The pH of weak-acid solutions is controlled by acid concentration (HA + A), the degree of acid dissociation (A/HA), and the strength of the acids present (pKa). We developed an empirical approach that allows the relative importance of each of these factors to be estimated for soils. This empirical model was applied to soils collected from an old-field plantation of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) at 5 and 25 years of age. During this period, soil pH dropped by 0.3 to 0.8 units, and extractable calcium, magnesium and potassium declined by 20 to 80%. The empirical model indicates that the decline in pH resulted largely from the reduction in base saturation of the exchange complex. However, the average acid strength of the exchange complex decreased during the 20 years, preventing a greater decline of perhaps 0.1 to 0.2 units in the observed pH. The rate of decrease in the acid neutralizing capacity to pH 3.5 was about 1.3 kmolc/ha annually, while the increase in base neutralizing capacity was about 2.7 and 1.6 kmolc/ha annually to pH 5.5 and 8.2, respectively. Extractable alkali and alkaline earth cations declined by about 2.2 kmolc/ha annually, matched by the rate of increase in aluminium. These changes demonstrated the dynamic nature of poorly buffered soils, and indicated that changes in soil acidity may be expected over a period of decades (especially following changes in land-use).

Key words

acid deposition forest decline soil acidification 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dan Binkley
    • 1
  • David Valentine
    • 1
  • Carol Wells
    • 2
  • Ute Valentine
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. of Forest and Wood SciencesColorado State UniversityFt. Collins
  2. 2.USDA Forest ServiceSoutheastern Forest Experiment StationResearch Triangle Park

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