Recovery from chronic and snowmelt acidification: Long-term trends in stream and soil water chemistry at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, New Hampshire, USA

Colin B. Fuss, Charles T. Driscoll, John L. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Scopus citations

Abstract

Atmospheric acid deposition of sulfate and nitrate has declined markedly in the northeastern United States due to emissions controls. We investigated long-term trends in soil water (1984-2011) and stream water (1982-2011) chemistry along an elevation gradient of a forested watershed to evaluate the progress of recovery of drainage waters from acidic deposition at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, USA. We found slowed losses of base cations from soil and decreased mobilization of dissolved inorganic aluminum. Stream water pH at the watershed outlet increased at a rate of 0.01 units yr-1, and the acid neutralizing capacity (ANC) gained 0.88 μeq L-1 yr-1. Dissolved organic carbon generally decreased in stream water and soil solutions, contrary to trends observed at many North American and European sites. We compared whole-year hydrochemical trends with those during snowmelt, which is the highest-flow and lowest ANC period of the year, indicative of episodic acidification. Stream water during snowmelt had long-term trends of increasing ANC and pH at a rate very similar to the whole-year record, with closely related steady decreases in sulfate. A more rapid decline in stream water nitrate during snowmelt compared with the whole-year trend may be due, in part, to the marked decrease in atmospheric nitrate deposition during the last decade. The similarity between the whole-year trends and those of the snowmelt period is an important finding that demonstrates a consistency between recovery from chronic acidification during base flow and abatement of snowmelt acidification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2360-2374
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Volume120
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015

Keywords

  • acid deposition
  • base cations
  • dissolved organic carbon
  • nitrate
  • sulfate
  • watershed

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology

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