Forest soil solutions: Acid/base chemistry and response to calcite treatment

Robert J. Geary, Charles T. Driscoll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Soil solution chemistry was investigated at a forested watershed draining into Woods Lake, N.Y. as part of the Experimental Watershed Liming Study (EWLS). The objective of this study was to assess the response of soil water to watershed treatment of calcite (CaCO3). This material was applied in an effort to mitigate the effects of acidic atmospheric deposition. Soil solutions draining Oa and Bs horizons in reference subcatchments were characterized by low pH and acid neutralizing capacity (ANC) due to elevated concentrations of SO42-, NO3- and organic anions relative to the sum of base cation (CB: Ca2+, Mg2+, Na+, K+) concentrations. Seasonal and spatial variation of pH and ANC in soil solutions appeared to be largely controlled by variations in the concentrations of dissolved organic acids which, in turn, were regulated by reactions of Al with soil organic matter. Nitrate was positively correlated and SO42- was negatively correlated with Ca2+ and Al concentrations in reference soil solutions, indicating that changes in NO3- influences spatial and seasonal variations in Ca2+ and Al concentrations. On this basis, NO3- appears to be important in soil acidification and the dynamics of drainage water acidity. Comparison of our results with historical data for the site showed declines in concentrations of SO4-, which are consistent with decreases in emissions of SO2 in the eastern U.S. and atmospheric deposition of SO42- to the Adirondack region. Mineral soil solutions have shown large increases in concentrations of NO3-. Declines in concentrations of CB and increases in concentrations of Al have occurred over the last ten years, suggesting depletion of soil pools of exchangeable basic cations and increased sensitivity to acidic deposition. Calcite (CaCO3) treatment of 6.89 Mg/ha resulted in a significant increase of Ca2+, ANC and pH in both Oa and Bs horizon soil solutions. Soil water response to CaCO3 addition was most evident during the first year after treatment, apparently due to macropore transport of particulate and dissolved CaCO3. However, increases in ANC and pH in the mineral soil waters were not sustained and appeared insufficient to result in substantial improvement in surface water quality over the 43 month study period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-220
Number of pages26
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996


  • Acid neutralizing capacity
  • Acidification
  • Aluminum
  • Calcite
  • Calcium
  • Liming
  • Nitrogen cycling
  • Soil chemistry
  • Soil solutions
  • Spodosols

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


Dive into the research topics of 'Forest soil solutions: Acid/base chemistry and response to calcite treatment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this