Forest soil Ca depletion through leaching and vegetation uptake may threaten long-term sustainability of forest productivity in the southeastern USA. This study was conducted to assess Ca pools and fluxes in a representative southern Piedmont forest to determine the soil Ca depletion rate. Soil Ca storage, Ca inputs in atmospheric deposition, and outputs in soil leaching and vegetation uptake were investigated at the Panola Mountain Research Watershed (PMRW) near Atlanta, GA. Average annual outputs of 12.3 kg ha-1 yr-1 in uptake into merchantable wood and 2.71 kg ha-1 yr-1 soil leaching exceeded inputs in atmospheric deposition of 2.24 kg ha-1 yr-1. The annual rate of Ca uptake into merchantable wood exceeds soil leaching losses by a factor of more than five. The potential for primary mineral weathering to provide a substantial amount of Ca inputs is low. Estimates of Ca replenishment through mineral weathering in the surface 1 m of soil and saprolite was estimated to be 0.12 kg ha-1 yr-1. The weathering rate in saprolite and partially weathered bedrock below the surface 1 m is similarly quite low because mineral Ca is largely depleted. The soil Ca depletion rate at PMRW is estimated to be 12.7 kg ha-1 yr-1. At PMRW and similar hardwood-dominated forests in the Piedmont physiographic province, Ca depletion will probably reduce soil reserves to less than the requirement for a merchantable forest stand in ≃80 yr. This assessment and comparable analyses at other southeastern USA forest sites suggests that there is a strong potential for a regional problem in forest nutrition in the long term.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Soil Science