Canadian Forest Service Publications

Acidification recovery in a changing climate: Observations from thirty-five years of stream chemistry monitoring in forested headwater catchments at the Turkey Lakes watershed, Ontario. Webster, K.L., Leach, J.A., Houle, D., Hazlett, P.W., Emilson, E.J.S., Hydrological Processes. (2021) 35:14346.

Year: 2021

Issued by: Great Lakes Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 40479

Language: English

Series: Internal Report (GLFC - Sault Ste. Marie)

Availability: PDF (download)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1002/hyp.14346

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Plain Language Summary

Long-term ecosystem studies are valuable for understanding integrated ecosystem response to global changes in atmospheric deposition and climate. We examined trends for a 35-year period (1982/83–2017/18) in concentrations of a range of solutes in precipitation and stream water from nine headwater catchments spanning elevation and surficial geology gradients at the Turkey Lakes watershed (TLW) in northeastern Ontario, Canada. Average annual water year (WY, October to September) concentrations in precipitation significantly declined over the period for sulphate (SO4 2), nitrate (NO3) and chloride (Cl), while calcium (Ca2+) and potassium (K+) concentrations increased, resulting in a significant pH increase from 4.2 to 5.7. Trends in stream chemistry through time are generally consistent with expectations associated with acidification recovery. Concentration of many stream water solutes (SO4 2, Cl, calcium [Ca2+], magnesium [Mg2+] and NH4 + generally decreased, while others (silica [SiO2] and dissolved organic carbon [DOC]) generally increased. Increases were also observed for alkalinity (six of nine catchments), acid neutralizing capacity ([ANC]; six of nine catchments) and pH (eight of nine catchments), while conductivity declined (six of nine catchments). Variability in trends among catchments are associated with differences in surficial geology and wetland cover. While absolute solute concentrations were generally lower at bedrock dominated high-elevation catchments compared to till dominated lower elevation catchments, the rate of change of concentration was often greater for high elevation catchments. This study confirms continued, but non-linear stream chemistry recovery from acidification, particularly at the less buffered high and moderate elevation sites. The heterogeneity of responses among catchments highlights our incomplete understanding of the relative importance of different mechanisms influencing stream chemistry and the consequences for downstream ecosystems