By Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley Public Affairs
Calcium can do much more than strengthen bones. The mineral is a critical nutrient for healthy tree growth, and new research shows that adding it to the soil helps reverse the decades-long decline of forests ailing from the effects of acid rain.
Helicopter distributes calcium pellets throughout research watershed at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest. (Photo courtesy Hubbard Brook Research Foundation)
The paper, published today (Thursday, Sept. 19), in the journal Environmental Science and Technology (EST) Letters, and led by John Battles, professor of forest ecology at the University of California, Berkeley, also presents strong evidence that acid rain impairs forest health.
The paper reports on 15 years of data from an ongoing field experiment in the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire led by study co-author Charles Driscoll Jr., professor of environmental systems engineering at Syracuse University.
“It is generally accepted that acid rain harms trees, but the value of our study is that it proves the causal link between the chronic loss of soil calcium caused by decades of acid rain and its impact on tree growth,” said Battles. “The temporal and spatial scope of the study – 15 years and entire watersheds – is unique and makes the results convincing.”