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Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2019 May;26(13):12928-12939. doi: 10.1007/s11356-019-04831-w. Epub 2019 Mar 20.

Sulfur deposition still contributes to forest soil acidification in the Pearl River Delta, South China, despite the control of sulfur dioxide emission since 2001.

Huang J1,2, Zhou K1,2, Zhang W1,2, Liu J1,2, Ding X3, Cai X1,2, Mo J4,5.

Author information

1
Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Applied Botany, South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, 510650, China.
2
Key Laboratory of Vegetation Restoration and Management of Degraded Ecosystems, South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, 510650, China.
3
State Key Laboratory of Organic Geochemistry, Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, 510640, China.
4
Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Applied Botany, South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, 510650, China. mojm@scbg.ac.cn.
5
Key Laboratory of Vegetation Restoration and Management of Degraded Ecosystems, South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, 510650, China. mojm@scbg.ac.cn.

Abstract

Sulfur dioxide emissions have been regulated at a global scale; sulfur (S) deposition no longer contributes to soil acidification instead of an alleviation effect in temperate regions; however, it remains unclear whether S deposition still contributes to soil acidification in the tropics. The Pearl River Delta (PRD), South China, has been suffering serious soil acidification, but the contribution of S deposition was ignored because of the regulation of S emission since 2001. Here, we chose the evergreen broadleaf forests, which are the typical forest type at the regional scale in PRD to examine the contribution of S deposition and its characteristics in this acidification, based on an established urban-rural gradient in the range of 260 km. A substantial acidification was evidenced by the significant decline of soil pH from rural to urban sites, with mean pH values decreased by more than 0.60 U through the whole 40-cm depths. However, there was no significant difference in soil pH from 0-10 cm, 10-20 cm, and to 20-40 cm at each site (P > 0.05). Acid-neutralizing capacity (ANC) showed a similar trend to soil pH, with a significant decline along the urbanization gradient and no significant effect of soil depths. Soil sulfate (SO42-), as the most abundant species in ANC, contributed greatly to soil acidification for the whole 40-cm depth, as shown by the significant positive relationships between it with soil pH and base cations. Soils also exhibited the depletion of base cations with low base saturation (< 20%) and the release of Al and Fe. Our research demonstrated that the severe soil acidification in the PRD region has extended to the subsoil level (40-cm depth), and S deposition is still an important driver to this acidification. Therefore, both recovering the acidified soils and controlling the acidifying pollutants, especially S, are particularly difficult in southern China.

KEYWORDS:

South China; Subsoil acidification; Sulfur deposition; Tropical forests; Urban–rural gradient

PMID:
30891701
DOI:
10.1007/s11356-019-04831-w
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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