Exchangeable hydrogen explains the pH of spodosol Oa horizons

Donald S. Ross, Mark B. David, Gregory B. Lawrence, Richmond J. Bartlett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The chemistry of extremely acid Oa horizons does not conform to traditional pH, Al, and base saturation relationships. Results from two separate studies of northeastern U.S. forested soils were used to investigate relationships between pH in water or dilute salt solutions and other soil characteristics. In Oa horizons with pH below 4, soil pH in dilute CaCl2 solution was correlated with exchangeable H+ measured either by titration (r = -0.88, P = 0.0001, n = 142) or by electrode (r = -0.89, P = 0.0001, n = 45). Exchangeable H+ expressed as a percentage of the cation-exchange capacity (CEC) was linear with pH and showed similar slopes for data from both studies. For all samples, pHw = 4.21 - 1.80 x H+/CEC (R2 = 0.69, n = 194). The reciprocal of the H+/CEC ratio is base saturation with Al added to the bases. Because of the low pH, exchangeable Al does not appear to behave as an acid. Exchangeable H+ remains an operationally defined quantity because of the difficulty in separating exchange and hydrolysis reactions. In a variety of neutral-salt extractants, concentration of H+ were correlated with 0.1 M BaCl2-exchangeable H+ (r > 0.91, P = 0.0001, n = 26) regardless of the strength of the extract. Nine successive extractions with 0.33 mM CaCl2 removed more H+ than was removed by single batch extractions with either 1 M KCl or 0.1 M BaCl2 (average H+ of 70, 43, and 49 mmol kg-1, respectively for 26 samples). The data showed little difference in the chemical behavior of Oa horizons from a variety of geographical sites and vegetation types.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1926-1932
Number of pages7
JournalSoil Science Society of America Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science


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