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Acidic episodes retard the biological recovery of upland British streams from chronic acidification

Kowalik, Renata A., Cooper, David M., Evans, Chris D. and Ormerod, Stephen James 2007. Acidic episodes retard the biological recovery of upland British streams from chronic acidification. Global change biology 13 (11) , pp. 2439-2452. 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2007.01437.x

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Abstract

We tested two predictions required to support the hypothesis that anthropogenic acidic episodes might explain the poor biological response of upland British streams otherwise recovering from acidification: (i) that invertebrate assemblages should differ between episodic and well-buffered streams and (ii) these effects should differentiate between sites with episodes caused by anthropogenic acidification as opposed to base-cation dilution or sea-salt deposition. Chronic and episodically acidic streams were widespread, and episodes reflected acid titration more than dilution. Nonmarine sulphate (16–18% vs. 5–9%), and nitrate (4–6% vs. 1–2%) contributed more to anion loading during episodes in Wales than Scotland, and Welsh streams also had a larger proportion of total stream sulphate from nonmarine sources (64–66% vs. 35–46%). Sea-salts were rarely a major cause of episodic ANC or pH reduction during the events sampled. By contrast, streams with episodes driven by strong anthropogenic acids had lower pH (5.0±0.6) and more dissolved aluminium (288±271 μg L−1) during events than where episodes were caused by dilution (pH 5.4±0.6; 116±110 μg Al L−1) or where streams remained circumneutral (pH 6.7±1.0; 50±45 μg Al L−1). Both biological predictions were supported: invertebrate assemblages differed among sites with different episode chemistry while several acid-sensitive species were absent only where episodes reflected anthropogenic acidification. We conclude that strong acid anions – dominantly nonmarine sulphate – still cause significant episodic acidification in acid-sensitive areas of Britain and may be a sufficient explanation for slow biological recovery in many locations.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Uncontrolled Keywords: Acid deposition ; Biodiversity ; Episodic acidification ; Invertebrates ; Reversibility
Publisher: Blackwell Science
ISSN: 13652486
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 01:38
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/1214

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