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Soil acidification on dry heaths in Jutland, Denmark - trends in pH over a century

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Anthropogenic airborne pollution has lowered soil pH for decades, while partial chemical recovery has been documented in recent years in northwest Europe; however, it remains uncertain how naturally acidic ecosystems, such as dry heaths, have responded. Here, we attempt to elucidate scale changes over decades in surface soil pH in dry heath ecosystems by encompassing 1336 historic measurements from 120 sites covering a time span from 1920 to 2015, an unmatched timespan. The data set had soil pH (1:1 soil–water) ranging from 3.06 to 6.38 with a mean of 3.86 ± 0.01. When analyzing the data in a change point model, initially a minor non-significant drop in pH (0.99) was seen before the change point followed by a weak non-significant positive trend. This may indicate that either there was a drop from the 1920s to 1942, after which soil pH probably increased, or that there has been no change in the entire period. We propose that the change is related to either (1) that the sulphur deposition peaked in the early 1980s and, as result, sulphur deposition decreased, which caused a small recovery of soil pH, or (2) that anthropogenic acidification did not significantly change soil pH in this naturally very acidic ecosystem.

Original languageEnglish
Article number31
JournalWater, Air and Soil Pollution
Number of pages11
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2022

    Research areas

  • Change point model, Dry heaths, Heathlands, Soil acidification, Soil pH

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