Forest soil response to acid and salt additions of sulfate: I. Sulfur constituents and net retention

Mark B. David, William J. Fasth, George F. Vance

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We used soil columns constructed from a Maine Spodosol and Illinois Alfisol to investigate the retention of SO42−added as Na2SO4or H2SO4. Both organic and inorganic S pools were examined to determine how retention of added SO42−was influenced by both mineralization/immobilization and adsorption/desorption processes. Forty columns were leached weekly for a year with simulated throughfall solutions containing base cations (Ca2+, Mg2+, K+, Na+), NH4+, NO3, Cl, and either 80, 280, or 1080 μeq SO42−L−1for varying periods. At the conclusion of the experiment acid and control columns were destructively sampled by depth increments to examine organic (C-bonded S and ester sulfate) and extractable SO42−concentrations, as well as soil pH. For all Spodosol columns, SO42−adsorption by the B horizon was the dominant process of SO42−retention; no changes in organic S pools were observed. Soils in acid columns retained greater SO42−than salt columns, most likely due to pH dependent adsorption. However, all Spodosols retained large amounts of SO42−. In the Alfisol, SO42−retention was lower than in the Spodosols (<25%) due to a limited SO42−adsorption capacity; mineralization of C-bonded S resulted in S inputs nearly equaling outputs. Although organic S was the dominant S pool in both soils, there was little mineralization overall, and inorganic adsorption appeared to be the primary process of SO42−retention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)136-145
Number of pages10
JournalSoil Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science

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