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Assessing Mg and Ca depletion from broadleaf forest soils and potential causes - A case study in the Morvan Mountains

Van Der Heijden G., Legout A., Pollier B., Mareschal L., Turpault M.P., Ranger J., Dambrine E.. 2013. Forest Ecology and Management, 293 : p. 65-78.

Compared to conifers, broadleaf forests are less prone to soil and water acidification, because (1) they often have soils with larger exchangeable base cation pools, (2) the pollution scavenging capacity of deciduous trees is lower, and (3) they grow more slowly and are often less intensively managed. Since the 1980s, atmospheric deposition acidity has strongly decreased in forest ecosystems, so that the present acidification status of broadleaf forests should be improving. We used a 35 year-old beech plot in the Morvan Mountains (Burgundy, France) to question past and present acidification processes in broadleaf ecosystems. Soil exchangeable Mg, Ca and K pools measured from samples collected in 1974 and 2001 were compared and input-output budgets were computed over the 2003-2008 period. The objectives were (i) to assess Mg and Ca pool size changes over 1974-2008, (ii) to discuss the potential causes of these changes and, (iii) discuss the limits of conventional methods to study nutrient pool size changes (soil data comparison and nutrient budgets). Soil exchangeable Mg pools decreased during the 1974-2001 period while Ca and K pools remained constant, and very small. Soil solution monitoring and input-output budgets over the 2003-2008 period suggested an ongoing loss of exchangeable Ca and Mg, partly due to the desorption of sulphate from the soil which induced Mg, Ca and K depletion. Given the very low concentration in exchangeable base cations, and assuming no change in soil spatial variability, we computed that resampling soils at 10 years intervals may not unequivocally demonstrate a gain/loss of exchangeable base cations. Foliar Mg concentrations were continuously below the deficiency level, K and N concentrations decreased but Ca did not. From this, we discuss the validity/limits of the different approaches used, how the ecosystem can cope with such low levels of nutrients, and the fluxes and processes within the ecosystem that should be investigated in this perspective. (Résumé d'auteur)

Mots-clés : ph du sol; analyse de sol; propriété physicochimique du sol; teneur en éléments minéraux; calcium; magnesium; potassium; fagus; forêt feuillue; bourgogne

Thématique : Foresterie - Considérations générales; Chimie et physique du sol; Fertilité du sol

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