Migration and leaching characteristics of base cation: indicating environmental effects on soil alkalinity in a karst area

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2018 Jul;25(21):20899-20910. doi: 10.1007/s11356-018-2266-x. Epub 2018 May 15.


In karst areas, rock dissolution often results in the development of underground networks, which act as subterranean pathways for rapid water and nutrient (and possibly soil) loss during precipitation events. Loss of soluble nutrients degrades surface soils and decreases net primary productivity, so it is important to establish flow pathways and quantify nutrient loss during rainfall events of different magnitudes. We conducted a simulated rainfall experiment in karst and nonkarst areas to compare the concentration of nutrients in surface and subsurface flow water and effects on soil alkalinity in three lithologic soil formations under five different rainfall intensity treatments. Compared with the nonkarst area, the runoff in subsurface flows and the proportion of nutrient loss in the subsurface flow are larger in the karst area and less affected by rain intensity. The maximum loss loads of calcium (Ca2+) and magnesium (Mg2+) ions were 32.9 and 19.8 kg ha-1, respectively. With the estimate of base cation loss loads in the China southern karst area under the rainfall intensity of 45 mm h-1, more than 80% of the base cation loss load occurred in the limestone karst area. Although the alkalinity leaching value in nonkarst was similar to that in the karst area under simulated rainfall conditions, its impact on the ecological environment was quite different.

Keywords: Base cations; Karst; Lithologic; Simulated rainfall; Soil degradation; Solute transport.

MeSH terms

  • Calcium / analysis
  • Cations / analysis
  • China
  • Climate
  • Fresh Water / chemistry*
  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry*
  • Groundwater / chemistry*
  • Magnesium / analysis
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Potassium / analysis
  • Rain*
  • Sodium / analysis
  • Soil / chemistry*
  • Water Movements*


  • Cations
  • Soil
  • Sodium
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Calcium