Changes in climate and atmospheric deposition of base cations can alter the ionic composition of soil and surface waters, and therefore affect the structure and function of sensitive ecosystems. However, these drivers are not generally explicitly considered in the calculation of critical loads or dynamic critical loads to evaluate the recovery of ecosystems from elevated acidic deposition. Here we explore the importance of accounting for these changes in calculating dynamic critical loads for ecosystems. We developed three-dimensional dynamic critical load surfaces as a function of nitrate, sulfur, and base cation deposition under current and future climate change scenarios for the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, New Hampshire. This case study indicates that dynamic critical loads for nitrate and sulfur will be lower under conditions of potential climate change or decreases in base cation deposition. This analysis suggests that greater emission controls may be needed to protect sensitive forest ecosystems from acidic deposition under a future climate change or conditions of lower atmospheric deposition of base cations, particularly for watersheds experiencing elevated leaching losses of nitrate. This study should facilitate more informed policy decisions on emission control strategies and assessments of ecosystem recovery.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry