Long-term patterns of streamwater chemistry provide valuable evidence of the effects of environmental change on ecosystem biogeochemistry. Observations from old-growth forests may be particularly valuable, because patterns should not be influenced by forest succession. Water samples were collected biweekly from four streams in, and near, the old-growth forest watershed of the Bowl Research Natural Area in the White Mountains of New Hampshire from May 1973 through October 1974, and from June 1994 through June 1997. Average NO3(min) concentrations, which ranged from 40.8 to 46.1 μequiv.·L-1 in 1973-1974 declined significantly to averages of 14.9-20.1 μequiv.·L-1 during 1994-1997. Concentrations of the base cations, Ca2+ and Mg2+, also declined in stream water between the two sampling periods. The northeastern United States, including the study area, has been subjected to elevated atmospheric deposition of sulfur and nitrogen for more than 40 years. This observation has led to the concern that mature forest ecosystems may exhibiti N saturation and depletion of Ca2+ from exchangeable soil pools. While the Bowl exhibits a pattern of elevated concentrations of NO3- throughout the year, suggestive of conditions of N saturation, concentrations have declined markedly i over the last 20 years. Concentrations of Ca2+ have also declined suggesting possible depletion from the exchangeable soil pool, but the acid neutralizing capacity of stream water has remained constant or increased, indicating resistance to additional acidification.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Global and Planetary Change