The effects of artificially applied acid precipitation on growth and nutrient concentrations of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) and Norway spruce (Picea abies [L.] Karst.) seedlings were investigated in a long-term acid irrigation experiment in field conditions. Seedlings of northern and southern origin were planted in boxes containing peat and composted soil rich in nutrients, and sprinkler irrigated with water acidified with nitric and sulphuric acids to pH 3 or pH 4 for periods varying from two to three and a half growing seasons during 1986-1989. Water irrigated (pH 5.4-7.6) and non-irrigated groups of seedlings were also included in the experiment. At the end of the experiment needles, main and lateral shoots and roots were collected from the seedlings for the determination of height growth and biomass partitioning, and for the analysis of S, N, Mg, P, K, Ca, Mn and Fe concentrations. The treatment effects compared to the irrigated control were studied using multivariate analyses of variance and covariance. In the pine seedlings the total dry matter production increased by 25-70% compared with the irrigated controls when the total wet deposition to the seedlings exceeded 67 kg S ha-1 and 36 kg N ha-1 (e.g. after two growing seasons' exposure of the pH 3 treatment). The increase was mainly due to an increase in needle dry weight (54-72% greater at pH 3) and root weight (20-65% greater at pH 3), whereas the height growth or shoot weight growth were less affected. The northern provenance pine seedlings responded more clearly to the pH 3 irrigation than the southern ones. The treatments had no consistent effects on any of the growth variables studied in the spruce seedlings, however. The pines had higher root and foliage Ca concentrations as a result of the acid irrigation, whereas in spruce, acid rain decreased the Ca concentration in needles and shoots. Root Mn and Fe concentrations were higher in both species as a result of the pH 3 treatment. A higher soil conductivity and Ca concentration resulted from the prolonged pH 3 treatment. The results strongly support the hypothesis that the long-term growth and nutrient allocation response of conifers to acid precipitation is dependent both on the tree species and on the nutritional status of the soil. © 1995.
Field of science
- Plant biology, microbiology, virology