Soil and soil solution chemistry under red spruce stands across the northeastern united states

Mark B David, Gregory B. Lawrence

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Red spruce ecosystems in the northeastern United States are of interest because this species is undergoing regional decline. Their underlying soils have been examined closely at only a few sites, and information available on red spruce soils throughout this region is limited.This study was conducted to examine soil and soil solution chemistry at red spruce sites in the northeastern US that encompass the range of soil conditions in which red spruce grow. Soils and soil solutions from Oa and B horizons were obtained over a 2-year period from 12 undisturbed red spruce forests (elevations of 80-975 m) in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. All sites had extremely acid Spodosols (Oa soil pH range 2.56 to 3.11 in 0.01 M CaCl2), with generally low concentrations of base cations and high concentrations of Al on soil exchange sites. There was considerable range in exchange chemistry across the sites, however, with exchangeable Ca in Oa horizons ranging from 2.1 to 21.6 cmolckg-1 and exchangeable Al from 3.6 to 18.3 cmolckg-1. Solution chemistry had high concentrations of DOC in the Oa horizons (1160-15200 μmol L-1), with higher concentrations in the fall than in the spring, which was probably a reflection of fresh litter inputs. Despite high concentrations of DOC in all solutions, inorganic Al was found in some Oa solutions at concentrations as high as 26 μmol L-1. Ratios of Ca2+ to inorganic Al concentraturns were less than 1.0 in the Oa horizon of one site, and were well below 1.0 in B horizons of all sites. That soil chemistry was related to soil solution chemistry was demonstrated by solution Al concentrations in the forest floor having significant relationships with pyrophosphate extractable Al, although it was not related in the B horizon. Soil exchangeable Ca/Al ratios in the Oa horizon explained 75% of the variation in solution Ca2+/inorganic Al ratios when mean values were used for each site. Our studies have expanded the range of soil chemical conditions measured for red spruce soils. By characterizing the regional variability, these results will enable site intensive process studies to be better applied to regional problems such as spruce decline.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)314-328
Number of pages15
JournalSoil Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science


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