Long-term effects of liming on health and growth of a Masson pine stand damaged by soil acidification in Chongqing, China.
In the last decades, the Masson pine (Pinus massoniana) forests in Chongqing, southwest China, have increasingly declined. Soil acidification was believed to be an important cause. Liming is widely used as a measure to alleviate soil acidification and its damage to trees, but little is known about long-term effects of liming on the health and growth of declining Masson pine forests. Soil chemical properties, health condition (defoliation and discoloration), and growth were evaluated following application of limestone powder (0 (unlimed control), 1, 2, 3, and 4 t ha(-1)) in an acidified and declining Masson pine stand at Tieshanping (TSP) of Chongqing. Eight years after liming, in the 0-20 cm and 20-40 cm mineral soil layers, soil pH values, exchangeable calcium (Ca) contents, and Ca/Al molar ratios increased, but exchangeable aluminum (Al) levels decreased, and as a result, length densities of living fine roots of Masson pine increased, with increasing dose. Mean crown defoliation of Masson pines (dominant, codominant and subdominant pines, according to Kraft classes 1-3) decreased with increasing dose, and it linearly decreased with length densities of living fine roots. However, Masson pines (Kraft classes 1-3) in all treatments showed no symptoms of discoloration. Mean current-year twig length, twig dry weight, needle number per twig, needle length per twig, and needle dry weight per twig increased with increasing dose. Over 8 years, mean height increment of Masson pines (Kraft classes 1-3) increased from 5.5 m in the control to 5.8, 6.9, 8.3, and 9.5 m in the 1, 2, 3, and 4 t ha(-1) lime treatments, and their mean DBH (diameter at breast height) increment increased from 3.1 to 3.2, 3.8, 4.9, and 6.2 cm, respectively. The values of all aboveground growth parameters linearly increased with length densities of living fine roots. Our results show that liming improved tree health and growth, and these effects increased with increasing dose.