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Title Direct damage to vegetation caused by acid rain and polluted cloud: definition of critical levels for forest trees.CEH Staff publications
Name(s) Cape, J N (Neil)
Publication 1993
Subjects T07059b5; CEH staff publication;
Abstract The concept of critical levels was developed in order to define short-term and long-term average concentrations of gaseous pollutants above which plants may be damaged. Although the usual way in which pollutants in precipitation (wet deposition) influence vegetation is by affecting soil processes, plant foliage exposed to fog and, cloud, which often contain much greater concentrations of pollutant ions than rain, may be damaged directly. The idea of a critical level has been extended to define concentrations of pollutants in wet deposition above which direct damage to plants is likely. Concentrations of acidity and sulphate measured in mountain and coastal cloud are summarised. Vegetation at risk of injury is identified as montane forest growing close to the cloud base, where ion concentrations are highest. The direct effects of acidic precipitation on trees are reviewed, based on experimental exposure of plants to simulated acidic rain, fog or mist. Although most experiments have reported results in terms of pH (H+ concentration), the accompanying anion is important, with sulphate being more damaging than nitrate. Both conifers and broadleaved tree seedlings showing subtle changes in the structural characteristics of leaf surfaces after exposure to mist or rain at or about pH 3.5, or sulphate concentration of 150 mumol litre-1. Visible lesions on leaf surfaces occur at around pH 3 (500 mumol litre-1 sulphate), broadleaved species tending to be more sensitive than conifers. Effects on photosynthesis and water relations, and interactions with other stresses (e.g. frost), have usually been observed only for treatments which have also caused visible injury to the leaf surface. Few experiments on the direct effects of polluted cloud have been conducted under field conditions with mature trees, which unlike seedlings in controlled conditions, may suffer a growth reduction in the absence of visible injury. Although leaching of cations (Ca+, Mg2+, K+) is stimulated by acid
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