Processes regulating temporal and longitudinal variations in the chemistry of a low-order woodland stream in the Adirondack region of New York

C. T. Driscoll, B. J. Wyskowski, C. C. Cosentini, M. E. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Watershed processes influence the acid neutralizing capacity of surface waters by mediating changes in concentration of ionic solutes. Acidification of surface waters by atmospheric deposition of mineral acids and the extent to which ecosystem transformations neutralize this acidity are of particular concern. Seasonal variations in flow paths of water through soil and biological processes result in short-term changes in chemistry that may be critical to surface water ecology. In this study, we assessed longitudinal and temporal variations in the chemistry of a low-order stream, Pancake-Hall Creek, located in the west-central Adirondack region of New York. By quantifying changes in ionic solute concentration (e.g. Ca2+, Ala+, SO42-, NO3-) we were able to evaluate processes responsible for short-term fluctuations in acid/base chemistry. In the headwater sites, stream water was acidic; changes in pH, acid neutralizing capacity (ANC) and Al were primarily due to seasonal variations in basic cation and NO3- concentrations. At the downstream sites, water migrated through a large beaver impoundment and thick till resulting in higher pH, acid neutralizing capacity and basic cation concentrations, and lower concentrations of Al. Neutralization of acidity was particularly evident during the low flow summer period and coincided with retention of SO42- in the beaver impoundment. During the high flow non-summer (October to June) period, depressed pH and ANC, and elevated Al concentrations were observed in the downstream sites. Acidic conditions during the non-summer period were not due to the oxidation of reduced sulfur deposits (e.g. SO42- events) but rather the resumption of conservative SO42- transport through the beaver impoundment (e.g. minimal SO42- retention) coupled with increases in NO3-.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-241
Number of pages17
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Feb 1987


  • acid neutralizing capacity
  • acidification
  • beaver impoundment
  • episodic events
  • sulfate reduction
  • watershed

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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