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The influence of acid rain on forest trees includes direct effects on foliage as well as indirect soil-mediated effects that cause a reduction in fine-root growth. In addition, the concentration of NO3(-) in acid rain increases with the rapidly growing of nitrogen deposition. In this study, we investigated the impact of simulated acid rain with different SO4(2-)/NO3(-) (S/N) ratios, which were 5:1 (S), 1:1 (SN) and 1:5 (N), on fine-root growth from March 2015 to February 2016. Results showed that fine roots were more sensitive to the effects of acid rain than soils in the short-term. Both soil pH and fine root biomass (FRB) significantly decreased as acid rain pH decreased, and also decreased with the percentage of NO3(-) increased in acid rain. Acid rain pH significantly influenced soil total carbon and available potassium in summer. Higher acidity level (pH=2.5), especially of the N treatments, had the strongest inhibitory impact on soil microbial activity after summer. The structural equation modelling results showed that acid rain S/N ratio and pH had stronger direct effects on FRB than indirect effects via changed soil and fine root properties. Fine-root element contents and antioxidant enzymes activities were significantly affected by acid rain S/N ratio and pH during most seasons. Fine-root Al ion content, Ca/Al, Mg/Al ratios and catalase activity were used as better indicators than soil parameters for evaluating the effects of different acid rain S/N ratios and pH on forests. Our results suggest that the ratio of SO4(2-) to NO3(-) in acid rain is an important factor which could affect fine-root growth in subtropical forests of China.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: The Science of the total environment
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