Lake/watershed sulfur budgets and their response to decreases in atmospheric sulfur deposition: Watershed and climate controls

Myron J. Mitchell, Charles T Driscoll, Patrick J. Mchale, Karen M. Roy, Zheng Dong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Atmospheric sulfur (S) emissions peaked in North America in the early 1970s followed by declines in S deposition and sulfate (SO4 2-) concentrations in surface waters. Changes in S biogeochemistry affect the mobilization of toxic (Al+3, H+) and nutrient (Ca2+, Mg2+, K+) cations, and the acid-base status of ecosystems. We focused on lake/watersheds in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, USA, one of the most acid-sensitive and acid-impacted regions in North America. We used 16 of the 17 original Adirondack Long-Term Monitoring Lakes from 1984 through 2010 and found significant declines (-2.14 μmolc l-1year-1) in SO4 2- concentrations. There were significant declines (-0.28kgS ha-1year-1) in total S deposition for all lake/watersheds. We constructed S mass balances for 14 lakes/watersheds from wet and dry S deposition and SO4 2- loss from drainage and found a comparable decline (-0.26kgS ha-1year-1) in lake SO4 2- export. There was a discrepancy (mean 2.34kgS ha-1year-1) between atmospheric S deposition and watershed S loss due to internal S sources. Using major solute chemistry including dissolved silica and watershed characteristics, it was evident that the watershed S budget discrepancy increased with thickness of surficial deposits. The annual discrepancies in S mass balances were strongly linked with annual watershed discharge. These results suggest that internal S sources are becoming increasingly important as atmospheric S inputs have declined. The internal SO4 2- supply of watersheds decreased concomitantly with lake acid neutralizing capacity (ANC). These findings suggest that the limited contributions from internal sources of SO4 2- will facilitate the recovery of ANC from those lake/watersheds with the lowest ANC. With long-term decreases in atmospheric S deposition, the effects of climate, especially increases in precipitation, will play an increasingly important role in regulating S budgets and the amount of SO4 2- mobilized from internal watershed sources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)710-720
Number of pages11
JournalHydrological Processes
Volume27
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 28 2013

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sulfur
watershed
lake
climate
acid
mass balance
budget
biogeochemistry
mobilization
solute
silica
cation
drainage
sulfate
surface water
mountain
nutrient
ecosystem
monitoring

Keywords

  • Adirondack Mountains
  • Cations
  • Climate change
  • Forested watersheds
  • New York State, USA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology

Cite this

Lake/watershed sulfur budgets and their response to decreases in atmospheric sulfur deposition : Watershed and climate controls. / Mitchell, Myron J.; Driscoll, Charles T; Mchale, Patrick J.; Roy, Karen M.; Dong, Zheng.

In: Hydrological Processes, Vol. 27, No. 5, 28.02.2013, p. 710-720.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Mitchell, Myron J. ; Driscoll, Charles T ; Mchale, Patrick J. ; Roy, Karen M. ; Dong, Zheng. / Lake/watershed sulfur budgets and their response to decreases in atmospheric sulfur deposition : Watershed and climate controls. In: Hydrological Processes. 2013 ; Vol. 27, No. 5. pp. 710-720.
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