Spatial boundary of urban ‘acid islands’ in China

E. Du, W. de Vries, X. Liu, J. Fang, J.N. Galloway, Y. Jiang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


Elevated emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and ammonia in China have resulted in high levels of sulfur and nitrogen deposition, being contributors to soil acidification, especially in and near large cities. However, knowledge gaps still exist in the way that large cities shape spatial patterns of acid deposition. Here, we assessed the patterns of pH, sulfate, nitrate and ammonium in bulk precipitation and throughfall in southern China’s forests by synthesizing data from published literature. Concentrations and fluxes of sulfate, nitrate and ammonium in bulk precipitation and throughfall exhibited a power-law increase with a closer distance to the nearest large cities, and accordingly pH showed a logarithmic decline. Our findings indicate the occurrence of urban ‘acid islands’ with a critical radius of approximately 70¿km in southern China, receiving potential acid loads of more than 2 keq ha-1 yr-1. These urban acid islands covered an area of 0.70¿million km2, accounting for nearly 30% of the land area in southern China. Despite a significant capacity to neutralize acids in precipitation, our analysis highlights a substantial contribution of ammonium to potential acid load. Our results suggest a joint control on emissions of multiple acid precursors from urban areas in southern China
Original languageEnglish
Article number12625
Number of pages9
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • atmospheric deposition
  • nitrogen deposition
  • air-pollution
  • soil acidification
  • emissions
  • canopy
  • forest
  • rain
  • ecosystems
  • cities


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