Factors affecting acid neutralizing capacity in the Adirondack region of New York: A solute mass balance approach

Mari Ito, Myron J. Mitchell, Charles T. Driscoll, Karen M. Roy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


High rates of acidic deposition in the Adirondack region of New York have accelerated acidification of soils and surface waters. Annual input-output budgets for major solutes and acid-neutralizing capacity (ANC) were estimated for 43 drainage lake-watersheds in the Adirondacks from 1998 to 2000. Sulfate was the predominant anion on an equivalent basis in both precipitation and drainage export. Calcium ion had the largest cation drainage export, followed by Mg2+. While these watersheds showed net nitrogen (N) retention, the drainage losses of SO42-, Cl-, base cations, and ANC exceeded their respective inputs from precipitation. Land cover (forest type and wetlands) affected the export of SO42-, N solutes, and dissolved organic carbon (DOC). The relationships of solute export with elevation (negative for base cations and Cl-, positive for NO3- and H+) suggest the importance of the concomitant changes of biotic and abiotic watershed characteristics associated with elevational gradients. The surface water ANC increased with the sum of base cations and was greatest in the lakes with watersheds characterized by thick deposits of glacial till. The surface water ANC was also higher in the lake-watersheds with lower DOC export. Some variation in lake ANC was associated with variability in acidic deposition. Using a classification system previously developed for Adirondack lakes on the basis primarily of surficial geology, lake-watersheds were grouped into five classes. The calculated ANC fluxes based on the major sinks and sources of ANC were comparable with measured ANC for the thicktill (I) and the medium-till lake-watersheds with low DOC (II). The calculated ANC was overestimated for the medium-till with high DOC (III) and the thin-till with high DOC (V) lake-watersheds, suggesting the importance of naturally occurring organic acids as an ANC sink, which was not included in the calculations. The lower calculated estimates than the measured ANC for the thin-till lake-watersheds with low DOC (IV) were probably due to the mobilization of Al as an ANC source in these watersheds that were highly sensitive to strong acid inputs. Our analysis of various drainage lakes across the Adirondacks on the basis of solute mass balances, coupled with the use of a lake classification system and GIS data, demonstrates that the lake-watersheds characterized by shallow deposits of glacial till are highly sensitive to acidic deposition not only in the southwestern Adirondack region where previous field-based studies were intensively conducted but also across the entire Adirondack region. Moreover, the supply of organic acids and Al mobilization substantially modify the acid-base status of surface waters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4076-4081
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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