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Roles of sulfate adsorption and base cation supply in controlling the chemical response of streams of western Virginia to reduced acid deposition

Robison, Andrew L.; Scanlon, Todd M.; Cosby, Bernard J.; Webb, James R.; Galloway, James N.. 2013 Roles of sulfate adsorption and base cation supply in controlling the chemical response of streams of western Virginia to reduced acid deposition. Biogeochemistry, 116 (1-3). 119-130. 10.1007/s10533-013-9921-6

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Abstract/Summary

Decreased acid deposition over recent decades has led to reductions in streamwater acidity on a widespread basis throughout the U.S. and Europe. A notable exception has been the southern Appalachian Mountains of the southeastern U.S., where declines in acid deposition have not translated into similar trends in stream chemistry in these watersheds with highly-weathered soils. To better characterize this observed behavior, streamwater samples collected at 64 sites in western Virginia on a quarterly basis from 1987 to 2011 were analyzed for chemical properties. Individual watershed response was strongly influenced by the dominant underlying bedrock, which affected sulfate ( SO2−4 ) adsorption and base cation supply. Overall, pH increased at a majority of sites across all bedrock types. However, acid neutralizing capacity (ANC) decreased at most sites underlain by base-poor bedrock, suggesting the susceptibility to episodic acidification remains a serious threat to these streams. The declines in ANC were more closely related the depletion of base cations (Ca2+, Mg2+, K+, and Na+) rather than increased SO2−4 concentration. Sites with higher relative SO2−4 adsorption exhibited little change in ANC. A mass balance analysis of sulfur at a base-poor watershed revealed that exports have recently surpassed inputs for the first time within the several-decade period of record. This pattern appears likely to continue, and if sustained, the depletion of the stored pool of sulfur signifies an important precursor for further improvements in streamwater acidity in the region

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1007/s10533-013-9921-6
CEH Sections: CEH fellows
ISSN: 0168-2563
Additional Keywords: stream acidification, acid deposition, acid neutralizing capacity, base cations, sulfate adsorption
NORA Subject Terms: Hydrology
Agriculture and Soil Science
Date made live: 31 Mar 2015 10:51 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/510530

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