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Discussion papers | Copyright
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Original research article 20 Jun 2018

Original research article | 20 Jun 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal SOIL (SOIL).

Assessing the impact of acid rain and forest harvest intensity with the HD-MINTEQ model – Soil chemistry of three Swedish conifer sites from 1880 to 2080

Eric McGivney1, Salim Belyazid2, Therese Zetterberg3, Stefan Löfgren4, and Jon Petter Gustafsson1,5 Eric McGivney et al.
  • 1Department of Sustainable Development, Environmental Science and Engineering, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Teknikringen 10B, 100 44, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 2Department of Physical Geography, Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
  • 3IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute Ltd., P.O. Box 53021, 400 14 Göteborg, Sweden
  • 4Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, P.O. Box 7050, 750 07 Uppsala, Sweden
  • 5Department of Soil and Environment, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, P.O. Box 7014, 750 07 Uppsala, Sweden

Abstract. Forest soils are susceptible to anthropogenic acidification. In the past, acid rain was a major contributor to soil acidification, but now that atmospheric levels of S have dramatically declined, concern has shifted towards biomass-induced acidification, i.e., decreasing soil solution pH due to tree growth and harvesting events that permanently remove base cations (BC) from forest stands. We use a novel dynamic model, HD-MINTEQ, to investigate the long-term impacts of two theoretical future harvesting scenarios in the year 2020, a conventional harvest (CH, which removes stems only) and a whole-tree harvest (WTH, which removes 100% of the above-ground biomass except for stumps), on soil chemistry and weathering rates at three different Swedish forest sites (Aneboda, Gårdsjön, and Kindla). Furthermore, acidification following the harvesting events is compared to the historical acidification that took place during the 20th century due to acid rain. Our results indicate that historical acidification due to acid rain had a larger impact on pore water chemistry and mineral weathering than tree growth and CH or WTH events, at least if nitrification remained at a low level. However, compared to a no-harvest scenario (NH), WTH and CH significantly impacted soil chemistry and weathering rates. Directly after a harvesting event (CH or WTH), the soil solution pH sharply increased for 5 to 10 years before slowly declining over the remainder of the simulation (until year 2080). WTH acidified soils slightly more than CH, with the largest effects being seen for the B1 horizons by the year 2080. Even though the pH values in the WTH and CH scenario decreased with time as compared to NH, they did not drop to the levels observed around the peak of historic acidification (1980–1990), indicating that the pH decrease due to tree growth and harvesting would be less impactful than that of historic atmospheric acidification. Weathering rates differed across locations and soil layers in response to historic acidification, but at several sites and layers, annual weathering rates decreased in tandem with decreasing pH, which is likely due to Al3+ weathering brakes. Weathering rates after the harvesting scenarios in 2020 generally increased although the dynamics were quite different depending on the site and soil layer.

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Short summary
Forest management may lead to long-term soil acidification due to the removal of base cations during harvest. By means of the HD-MINTEQ model, we compared the acidification effects of harvesting with the effects of historical acid rain at three forested sites in Sweden. The effects of harvesting were predicted to be much smaller than those resulting from acid deposition during the late 20th century. Soil weathering rates were affected differently depending on dissolved Al3+ and pH.
Forest management may lead to long-term soil acidification due to the removal of base cations...