Declining atmospheric deposition of heavy metals over the last three decades is reflected in soil and foliage of 97 beech (Fagus sylvatica) stands in the Vienna Woods

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Abstract

Rigorous studies on long-term changes of heavy metal distribution in forest soils since the implementation of emission controls are rare. Hence, we resampled 97 old-growth beech stands in the Vienna Woods. This study exploits an extensive data set of soil (infiltration zone of stemflow and between trees area) and foliar chemistry from three decades ago. It was hypothesized that declining deposition of heavy metals is reflected in soil and foliar total contents of Pb, Cu, Zn, Ni, Mn and Fe. Mean soil contents of Pb in the stemflow area declined at the highest rate from 223 to 50 mg kg−1 within the last three decades. Soil contents of Pb and Ni decreased significantly both in the stemflow area and the between trees area down to 80–90 cm soil depth from 1984 to 2012. Top soil (0–5 cm) accumulation and simultaneous loss in the lower soil over time for the plant micro nutrients Cu and Zn are suggested to be caused by plant uptake from deep horizons. Reduced soil leaching, due to a mean soil pH (H2O) increase from 4.3 to 4.9, and increased plant cycling are put forward to explain the significant increase of total Mn contents in the infiltration zone of beech stemflow. Top soil Pb contents in the stemflow area presently exceed the critical value at which toxicity symptoms may occur at numerous sites. Mean foliar contents of all six studied heavy metals decreased within the last three decades, but plant supply with the micro nutrients Cu, Zn, Mn and Fe is still in the optimum range for beech trees. It is concluded that heavy metal pollution is not critical for the studied beech stands any longer.

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Türtscher, S., Berger, P., Lindebner, L., & Berger, T. W. (2017). Declining atmospheric deposition of heavy metals over the last three decades is reflected in soil and foliage of 97 beech (Fagus sylvatica) stands in the Vienna Woods. Environmental Pollution, 230, 561–573. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2017.06.080

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