Aluminum in acidic surface waters: Chemistry, transport, and effects

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Ecologically significant concentrations of Al have been reported in surface waters draining 'acid-sensitive' watersheds that are receiving elevated inputs of acidic deposition. It has been hypothesized that mineral acids from atmospheric deposition have remobilized Al previously precipitated within the soil during soil development. This Al is then thought to be transported to adjacent surface waters. Dissolved mononuclear Al occurs as aquo Al, as well as OH-, F-, SO42-, and organic complexes. Although past investigations have often ignored non-hydroxide complexes of Al, it appears that organic and F complexes are the predominant forms of Al in dilute (low ionic strength) acidic surface waters. The concentration of inorganic forms of Al increases exponentially with decreases in solution pH. This response is similar to the theoretical pH dependent solubility of Al mineral phases. The concentration of organic forms of Al, however, is strongly correlated with variations on organic carbon concentration of surface waters rather than pH. Elevated concentrations of Al in dilute acidic waters are of interest because: Al is an important pH buffer; Al may influence the cycling of important elements like P, organic carbon, and trace metals; and Al is potentially toxic to aquatic organisms. An understanding of the aqueous speciation of Al is essential for an evaluation of these processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-104
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
VolumeVOL. 63
StatePublished - 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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