Afforestation effects on former agricultural soils
Long-term changes in soil profile characteristics and important soil physical, chemical and biological properties were evaluated and compared at 4 paired sites in NE Scotland, 44-61 years after the afforestation of agricultural soils planted with either Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.)) or Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris (L.)). At each paired site five profiles were studied in the afforested and five in the control agricultural soils. Comparison made between various properties in the pairs of soils showed a number of significant changes, which are summarised in Tables 2.18-2.20. The surface (O) horizon of the afforested soil could be differentiated into L, F and H horizons. The O horizon was rich in organic matter, crumb structured, porous and well-drained and was differentiated from the A horizon below by an irregular boundary. The A horizon was moderately well to excessively well-drained with a subangular blocky to crumb structure. This horizon was differentiated from the B horizon below by an irregular boundary. The agricultural soil profile was characterised by compact O and A horizons with a subangular blocky structure; each horizon was separated from the one below by a gradual, smooth horizon boundary. Afforestation increased the combined thickness of the O and A horizon by 0.21 cm yr-1. It caused a significant decrease in bulk density and had no effect on particle size distribution. At most sites % organic matter, C, C/N ratio, CEC and NH4+ concentration were higher and extractable P concentration lower in the O horizon and most of the A horizons of forest soils, compared to the agricultural soil. The concentration of N increased significantly in the O horizon. Soil pH, exchangeable Ca, Mg and K and % base saturation decreased significantly in most forest soil horizons compared to the agriculated soils. Exchangeable Na concentration increased in the B horizon. Accumulation rates of each element since afforestation were also calculated.