Interaction of Climate Change and Acid Deposition

Wright, Richard F.; Aherne, Julian; Bishop, Kevin; Dillon, Peter J.; Erlandsson, Martin; Evans, Chris D. ORCID:; Forsius, Martin; Hardekopf, David W.; Helliwell, Rachel C.; Hruška, Jakub; Hutchins, Mike ORCID:; Kaste, Oyvind; Kopáček, Jiri; Krám, Pavel; Laudon, Hjalmar; Moldan, Filip; Rogora, Michela; Sjøeng, Anne Merete S.; de Wit, Heleen A.. 2010 Interaction of Climate Change and Acid Deposition. In: Kernan, Martin; Battarbee, Richard W.; Moss, Brian, (eds.) Climate Change Impacts on Freshwater Ecosystems. Oxford, Blackwell Publishing, 152-179.

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Projections of the synergistic effects of acid deposition and climate change on freshwater ecosystems are inherently fraught with the uncertainty that such projections are for climatic conditions not currently experienced. For many of the climate scenarios, the projected mean temperature in the future will be well above that observed even in extreme years during the period of observation (maximum 30 years for most ecosystems). The ecosystem responses are probably not linear; thus, extrapolation from observations, even those spanning several decades, entails going outside the range of observations. It is acid deposition that is responsible for the widespread acidification of surface waters in sensitive areas of Europe, eastern North America and elsewhere in the world. This means that measures to reduce acidification problems can continue to be focussed on reducing emissions of S and N compounds to the atmosphere. Although reductions in emissions of S and N compounds have led to dramatic improvements and recovery in water quality in acidified freshwater ecosystems, biological recovery has lagged and the problem will remain in many areas for decades to come. Further reductions are required if the goal is to permit recovery of all impacted ecosystems. Climate change is a confounding factor in that it can exacerbate or ameliorate the rate and degree of acidification and recovery, both with respect to chemical as well as biological effects. The absence of recovery following reduction in acid deposition, therefore, may simply be the result of the confounding influence of climatic variations. The time-scales of recovery from acid deposition are in many respects similar to those of chronic changes in climate, in part because both drivers act by affecting large pools of S, N, C and base cations in catchment soil. But extreme climatic events, such as droughts, cause extreme responses that set back the biological recovery process and slow down progress towards a stable ecosystem. The interactions are complicated and manifold, and thus the outcomes on ecosystems are difficult to predict and generalize. Both acid deposition and climate change are caused by emissions of gases to the atmosphere and are largely due to the same types of human activities – burning of fossil fuels and other industrial processes. Clearly, there are substantial ‘co-benefits’ to be gained: for example, reductions in emissions of CO2 by a switch to renewable energy sources will also bring about a reduction in S and N emissions. At the policy level, much might be gained by coordinating future emission controls, now dealt with separately under the United Nations Economic Council for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Society will take measures to ameliorate or mitigate the effects of climate change. Some of these measures may indirectly affect the acidification of sensitive freshwaters. For example, as illustrated by the modelling example from Finland (Fig. 7.15), more intensive use of forests for biofuel may entail release of N now stored in the soil to surface waters in the form of NO3 accompanied by acidic cations. More research is needed on the effects of adaptation and mitigation. The mechanisms of the interactions between climate effects and acidification effects are still, however, poorly understood. Experiments, continued monitoring and analysis of long-term data series and modelling are complementary approaches that lead to new insights and knowledge on possible interactions. Research is particularly challenging in this field because the goal is to make projections for the future under climatic conditions that for many ecosystems have never been experienced previously. It is certain that climate change will have an increasing impact on freshwaters in the foreseeable future and there will certainly be effects not yet identified. Current assessments of total impact on freshwaters are probably underestimated.

Item Type: Publication - Book Section
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Water > WA Topic 1 - Variability and Change in Water Systems > WA - 1.3 - Model, attribute and predict impacts of climate and land cover change on hydrological and freshwater systems
CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biogeochemistry > BGC Topic 1 - Monitoring and Interpretation of Biogeochemical and Climate Changes > BGC - 1.3 - Quantify & attribute changes in biogeochemiical cycles ...
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Emmett
Boorman (to September 2014)
Additional Keywords: Interaction of Climate Change and Acid Deposition, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP), effects of climate change on nitrate leaching, dissolved organic carbon (DOC), total organic carbon (TOC), International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), effects of climate warming on soil chemical processes, modelling the combined effects of climate change and acid deposition, effects on aquatic biota
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 30 Nov 2010 15:15 +0 (UTC)

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