The ability of soil to sustain its supply of nutrients to a growing forest is controlled by a complex of biogeochemical processes. Forest soil data are notably absent, however, that describe sustained nutrient supply of nutrient depletion. The objective of this study was to evaluate how exchangeable nutrient cations of a previously cultivated Ultisol responded to the first three decades of pine forest development. On six occasions during the three decades, the upper 0.6 m of soil was sampled from eight permanent plots and chemically analyzed with the same procedures. During this period, KCl-exchangeable acidity (as positive charges of adsorbed H and Al ions) increased by 37.3 kmolc/ha in the upper 0.6 m of soil and positive charges of exchangeable Ca and Mg were depleted by 34.8 and 8.9 kmolc/ha (by 696 and 108 kg/ha), whereas, exchangeable K was reduced by only 0.5 kmolc/ha (19 kg/ha). Depletion of soil exchangeable Ca was on the same order of magnitude as Ca removals (i.e., Ca accumulation in biomass and forest floor plus that lost in soil leaching). Removals of soil Mg also appeared to outpace resupply from recycling, atmospheric deposition, and mineral weathering, but not the same degree as Ca. Over the three decades, soil leaching loss of these divalent cations (from 0.6 m depth) appeared equal to cation accumulation in biomass plus forest floor, with sulfate balancing about half these cations in leachates. In contrast to Ca and Mg, total K removals from the soil exceeded reductions in soil exchangeable K by nearly 20-fold. Exchangeable K was well buffered in surface mineral soils apparently due to a combination of biological recycling via leaching of canopies and forest floor plus mineral weathering release. These nutrient dynamics may be common to many nutrient-demanding forest ecosystems supported by soils with low activity kandic or oxic horizons. Such soils (Ultisols and Oxisols) occur on many hundreds of millions of hectares in temperate and tropical zones.
Richter, D.D., D. Markewitz, C.G. Wells, H.L. Allen, R. April, P.R. Heine, B. Urrego (1994): Soil chemical change during three decades in an old-field Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda L) ecosystem. Ecology 75 (5): 1463-1473. DOI: 10.2307/1937469