Assessment of soil calcium status in red spruce forests in the northeastern United States

Gregory B. Lawrence, Mark B. David, Scott W. Bailey, Walter C. Shortle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Long-term changes in concentrations of available Ca in soils of red spruce forests have been documented, but remaining questions about the magnitude and regional extent of these changes have precluded an assessment of the current and future status of soil Ca. To address this problem, soil samples were collected in 1992-93 from 12 sites in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine to provide additional data necessary to synthesize all available research results on soil Ca in red spruce forests. Sites were chosen to encompass the range of environmental conditions experienced by red spruce. Concentrations of exchangeable Ca ranged from 2.13 to 21.6 cmol(c) kg-1 in the Oa horizon, and from 0.11 to 0.68 cmol(c) kg-1 in the upper 10 cm of the B horizon. These measurements expanded the range of exchangeable Ca reported in the literature for both horizons in northeastern red spruce forests. Exchangeable Ca was the largest Ca fraction in the forest floor at most sites (92% of acid-extractable Ca), but mineral Ca was the largest fraction at the three sites that also had the highest mineral-matter concentrations. The primary factor causing variability in Ca concentrations among sites was the mineralogy of parent material, but exchangeable concentrations in the B horizon of all sites were probably reduced by acidic deposition. Because the majority of Ca in the forest floor is in a readily leachable form, and Ca inputs to the forest floor from the mineral soil and atmospheric deposition have been decreasing in recent decades, the previously documented decreases in Ca concentrations in the forest floor over previous decades may extend into the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-39
Number of pages21
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997


  • Atmospheric deposition
  • Calcium
  • Forest floor
  • Forest soils
  • Red spruce

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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