Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory

Study shows nitrogen deposition in Europe and North America is cause for highly acidic soil

Field researchersIncreasing levels of nitrogen deposition will push soils to a toxic level of acidification in which iron becomes more soluble and plant growth is reduced, according to a study published online in Nature Geoscience.

A long history of human-influenced nitrogen deposition associated with industry and agriculture has left soils in the Western Tatra Mountains of Slovakia highly acidic.

The authors of a new study, including NREL and U.S. Geological Survey scientist Jill Baron, reveal that increasing the nitrogen load in the region triggers the release of soluble iron into alpine grassland soils. This iron release is indicative of extreme soil acidification, equivalent to conditions seen in soils after acid mine drainage.

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