Predicting soil acidification trends at Plynlimon using the SAFE model
Abstract. The SAFE model has been applied to an acid grassland site, located on base-poor stagnopodzol soils derived from Lower Palaeozoic greywackes. The model predicts that acidification of the soil has occurred in response to increased acid deposition following the industrial revolution. Limited recovery is predicted following the decline in sulphur deposition during the mid to late 1970s. Reducing excess sulphur and NOx deposition in 1998 to 40% and 70% of 1980 levels results in further recovery but soil chemical conditions (base saturation, soil water pH and ANC) do not return to values predicted in pre-industrial times. The SAFE model predicts that critical loads (expressed in terms of the (Ca+Mg+K):Alcrit ratio) for six vegetation species found in acid grassland communities are not exceeded despite the increase in deposited acidity following the industrial revolution. The relative growth response of selected vegetation species characteristic of acid grassland swards has been predicted using a damage function linking growth to soil solution base cation to aluminium ratio. The results show that very small growth reductions can be expected for "acid tolerant" plants growing in acid upland soils. For more sensitive species such as Holcus lanatus, SAFE predicts that growth would have been reduced by about 20% between 1951 and 1983, when acid inputs were greatest. Recovery to c. 90% of normal growth (under laboratory conditions) is predicted as acidic inputs decline.