Natural Environment Monitoring 2009, No 10, pp. 9-16
CONTEMPORARY PROCESSES OCCURRING IN THE GEOECOSYSTEM OF THE CENTRAL PART OF THE ŚWIĘTOKRZYSKIE (HOLY CROSS) MOUNTAINS
Growing amounts of data pertaining to the functioning of ecosystems, including their respective components and successive attempts at ordering them, have taught us humility with respect to nature. It must be realised that the causes of many presently significant environmental problems remain uninvestigated and only come to be noted when their activity and pressure aggravate considerably.
The region of the Świętokrzyskie (Holy Cross) Mountains, elevated 100-300m above its surroundings, is currently exposed to both local and remote industrial and transport-related emissions, particularly from the dominant western as well as north- and south-western winds (Kowalkowski 1994; Jóźwiak 1998, 2001, 2007). The research discussed in the present article has covered the years 1994-2008 and was conducted in the central part of the Świętokrzyskie Mountains. Measurements of the basic features of a representative eco-habitat were taken in the vertical section of the system: atmosphere (input) – hylosphere – pedosphere (transformation) – hydrosphere, lithosphere (output), Fig. 1. A detailed sample collection methodology has been described in the works by Jóźwiak (2001) as well as Jóźwiak and Kowalkowski (2003).
The geoecosystem of the central part of the Świętokrzyskie Mountains is undergoing advanced, multi-faceted, accelerating changes caused by dry, moist and wet ambient concentrations. The main trend of these changes is towards progressive acidification due to increasing concentration of acid elements in the air. Emission of various gases, due to economic and living-related human activities, generates gas mixtures, while dusts suspended in atmospheric air are turned into aerosols which are mostly strongly acidic and directly affect vegetation.
Water penetrating tree stands in the geoecosystem of the central part of the Świętokrzyskie Mountains is subject to transformation through acidification (Fig. 3). The research so far has shown that, as a result of contact between precipitation water and plant surface, the pH decreases: under beeches – to the pH value of 4.78, under firs – to 4.31. The obtained values are related to acidogenic elements of NO3– and SO42- being washed out in tree crowns, together with H+ protons, adsorbed on plant surface due to dry deposition. In addition, as a result of stemflow, very aggressive water whose pH ranges from 2.93 to 7.31 (the weighted average amounting to 3.41) reaches the soil, causing the appearance of areas characterised by considerable impact of aggressive acid water around tree trunks (Fig. 4).
The result of adverse edaphic conditions in the central part of the Świętokrzyskie Mountains is advanced dieback of old-growth fir tree forests, and disease in the majority of fir overwood, as well as saplings and wildings. The beech has developed shoot whipping in upper crowns, while trunk bark demonstrates greyish and white-greyish seepage washed by the flow of aggressive acidic precipitation water. In the conditions of acidic soil, saturated with acidic H+, Al3+ and Fe3+ ions, alkaline cations originating from the tree stand are washed out of the soil within the range of root systems. In this way, under the very trees and within their root ranges, the soil is most strongly acidified and nutrient depleted. This process is particularly stimulated in beech-fir and beech stands. This state, as described by Kowalkowski and Jóźwiak (2000a), continues to aggravate.