Soil acidification from atmospheric ammonium sulphate in forest canopy throughfall

Abstract

Acid rain commonly has high concentrations of dissolved SO2−4, NH+4 and NO3. Sulphuric and nitric acids are usually considered to be the acidic components, whereas ammonium has a tendency to increase the pH of rainwater1. Ammonium can be transformed to nitric acid in soil but this source of acidity is generally less important than wet and dry deposition of free acids2,3. Here we describe the occurrence of high concentrations of ammonium in canopy throughfall (rainwater falling through the tree canopy) and stemflow in woodland areas in the Netherlands, resulting in acid inputs to soils two to five times higher than those previously described for acid atmospheric deposition2–5. The ammonium is present as ammonium sulphate, which probably forms by interaction of ammonia (volatilized from manure) with sulphur dioxide (from fossil fuels), on the surfaces of vegetation. After leaching by rainwater the ammonium sulphate reaching the soil oxidizes rapidly to nitric and sulphuric acid, producing extremely low pH values (2.8–3.5) and high concentrations of dissolved aluminium in the non-calcareous soils studied. Deposition of ammonium sulphate on the surfaces of vegetation and its environmental consequences are probably most important in areas with intensive animal husbandry.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1

    Charlson, R. J. & Rohde, H. Nature 295, 683–685 (1982).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Hutchinson, T. C. & Havas, M. (eds) Effects of Acid Precipitation on Terrestrial Ecosystems (Plenum, New York, 1980).

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Drabløs, D. & Tollan, A. (eds) Ecological Impact of Acid Precipitation (SNSF project, Ås, Norway, 1980).

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Glass, G. E., Brydges, T. G. & Loucks, O. L. Impact Assessment of Airborne Acidic Deposition on the Aquatic Environment of the United States and Canada (US Environmental Protection Agency, 1981).

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Ulrich, B., Mayer, R. & Khanna, P. K. Deposition von Luftverunreinigungen und ihre Auswirkungen in Waldökosystemen in Soiling (Sauerlander, Frankfurt a.M., 1979).

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Begheijn, L. Th. Methods of Chemical Analyses for Soils and Waters (Agricultural University, Wageningen, The Netherlands, 1980).

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Okita, T. & Kanamori, S. Atmos. Envir. 5, 621–627 (1971).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Romell, L. G. Svensk bot. Tidskr. 40, 1–8 (1946).

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Meetnet voor de Bepaling van de Chemische Samenstelling van de Neerslag, Jaaroverzicht, 1980, (KNMI, De Bilt, The Netherlands 1981).

  10. 10

    Eaton, J. S., Likens, G. E. & Bormann, F. H. J. Ecol. 61, 495–408 (1973).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Richter, A. & Granat, L. Int. met. Inst. Rep. AC-43 (Stockholm, 1978).

  12. 12

    Rippon, J. E., Skeffington, R. E., Wood, M. J., Brown, K. A. & Brown, D. J. A. in Ecological Impact of Acid Precipitation (eds Drabløs, D. & Tollan, A.) 276–277 (SNSF Project, Ås, Norway, 1980).

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Lauer, D. A., Bouldin, D. R. & Klausner, S. D. J. envir. Qual. 5, 134–141 (1976).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Brogan, J. C. (ed.) Developments in Plant and Soil Sciences Vol. 2 (Nijhoff/Junk, The Hague, 1981).

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Hoeft, R. G., Keeney, D. R. & Walsh, L. M. J. envir. Qual. 1, 203–208 (1972).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Tjepkema, J. D., Cartica, R. J. & Hemond, H. F. Nature 294, 445–446 (1981).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Brosset, C. Atmos. Envir. 12, 25–38 (1978).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    Hegg, D. A. & Hobbs, P. V. Atmos. Envir. 12, 241 (1978).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19

    Porter, L. K., Viets, F. G. & Hutchinson, G. L. Science 175, 759–761 (1972).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20

    Bjor, K. & Teigen, O. in Ecological Impact of Acid Precipitation (eds Drabløs, D. & Tollan, A.) 200–201 (SNSF project, Ås, Norway, 1980).

    Google Scholar 

  21. 21

    Prenzel, J. Pl. Soil 51, 39–49 (1979).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22

    Matzner, E. & Hetsch, W. Z. Pfl-Ernähr. Düng. Bodenk. 144, 64–73 (1981).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. 23

    Cronan, C. S. & Schofield, C. L. Science 204, 304–305 (1979).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24

    Overrein, L. N., Seip, H. M. & Tollan, A. Acid Precipitation Effects on Forest and Fish (SNSF project, Ås, Norway, 1980).

    Google Scholar 

  25. 25

    Likens, G. E., Bormann, F. H., Pierce, R. S., Eaton, J. S. & Johnson, N. M. Biogeochemistry of a Forested Ecosystem (Springer, New York, 1977).

    Google Scholar 

  26. 26

    Hutchinson, G. L. & Viets, F. G. Jr Science 166, 514–515 (1969).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

van Breemen, N., Burrough, P., Velthorst, E. et al. Soil acidification from atmospheric ammonium sulphate in forest canopy throughfall. Nature 299, 548–550 (1982). https://doi.org/10.1038/299548a0

Download citation

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing