Effects of simulated acid rain on microbial characteristics in a lateritic red soil
A laboratory experiment was performed to examine the impact of simulated acid rain (SAR) on nutrient leaching, microbial biomass, and microbial activities in a lateritic red soil in South China. The soil column leaching experiment was conducted over a 60-day period with the following six SAR pH treatments (levels): 2.5, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5, and 5.0 and one control treatment (pH = 7). Compared with the control treatment, the concentrations of soil organic matter, total nitrogen, total phosphorus, total potassium, soil microbial biomass carbon (MBC), soil microbial biomass nitrogen (MBN), and average well color density (AWCD) in the Ecoplates were all significantly decreased by leaching with SAR at different pH levels. The decrease in MBC and MBN indicated that acid rain reduced the soil microbial population, while the decrease in AWCD revealed that acid rain had a negative effect on soil bacterial metabolic function. Soil basal respiration increased gradually from pH 4.0 to 7.0 but decreased dramatically from pH 2.5 to 3.0. The decrease in soil nutrient was the major reason for the change of soil microbial functions. A principal component analysis showed that the major carbon sources used by the bacteria were carbohydrates and carboxylic acids.