Acidity of Soil and Water Decreases in Acid-Sensitive Forests of Tropical China

Zhiyang Lie, Wenjuan Huang, Guoyi Zhou, Deqiang Zhang, Junhua Yan, Jun Jiang, Roy Neilson, Shuyidan Zhou, Wanjun Zhang, Luis Carlos Ramos Aguila, Guowei Chu, Shizhong Liu, Ze Meng, Qianmei Zhang, Juxiu Liu (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Acid deposition in China has been declining since the 2000s. While this may help mitigate acidification in forest soils and water, little is known about the recovery of soils and water from previous severe acidification in tropical China. Here, we assessed the chemistry of mineral soils, water, and acid gases (SO2 and NOx) from three successional forest types in tropical China from 2000 to 2022. Our results showed that soil pH increased synchronously from 3.9 (2000-2015) to 4.2 (2016-2022) across all three forest types, with exchangeable acid initially decreasing and thereafter stabilizing. Surface and ground water pH also gradually increased throughout the monitoring period. Soil pH recovery was stronger in the primary than in the planted forest. However, soil pH recovery lagged behind the increase in rainfall pH by approximately a decade. The recovery of soil pH was likely related to the positive effects of the dissolution of Al/Fe-hydroxysulfate mineral and subsequent sulfur desorption on soil acid-neutralizing capacity, increased soil organic matter, and climate warming, but was likely moderated by increased exchangeable aluminum and potentially proton-producing hydroxysulfate mineral dissolution that caused the lagged soil pH recovery. Surface and ground water pH recovery was attributed to increased water acid-neutralizing capacity. Our study reports the potential for the recovery of acidified soil and water following decreased acid deposition and provides new insights into the functional recovery of acid-sensitive forests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11075-11083
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number30
Early online date20 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2023


  • decreased acid deposition
  • pH
  • recovery
  • aluminum
  • soil and water acidification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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