Afforestation neutralizes soil pH

Songbai Hong, Shilong Piao, Anping Chen, Yongwen Liu, Lingli Liu, Shushi Peng, Jordi Sardans, Yan Sun, Josep Peñuelas, Hui Zeng

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearch

    54 Citations (Scopus)


    © 2018 The Author(s). Soil pH regulates soil biogeochemical processes and has cascading effects on terrestrial ecosystem structure and functions. Afforestation has been widely adopted to increase terrestrial carbon sequestration and enhance water and soil preservation. However, the effect of afforestation on soil pH is still poorly understood and inconclusive. Here we investigate the afforestation-caused soil pH changes with pairwise samplings from 549 afforested and 148 control plots in northern China. We find significant soil pH neutralization by afforestation - afforestation lowers pH in relatively alkaline soil but raises pH in relatively acid soil. The soil pH thresholds (T pH), the point when afforestation changes from increasing to decreasing soil pH, are species-specific, ranging from 5.5 (Pinus koraiensis) to 7.3 (Populus spp.) with a mean of 6.3. These findings indicate that afforestation can modify soil pH if tree species and initial pH are properly matched, which may potentially improve soil fertility and promote ecosystem productivity.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number520
    JournalNature Communications
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


    Dive into the research topics of 'Afforestation neutralizes soil pH'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this