, Volume 85, Issue 4, pp 2443-2448

Predicting freshwater critical loads from national data on geology, soils and land use

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Abstract

Using information on geology, soils and land use, a map has been generated for Great Britain which indicates five classes of sensitivity of surface waters to acidification. This map has been used for designing sampling strategies for mapping critical loads of acidity for freshwaters. This paper evaluates the freshwater sensitivity map using a data set of water chemistry collected as part of the UK critical loads programme. Discriminant analysis was used to predict five critical load classes from information on geology and soil sensitivity for freshwater sites. This showed geology and soil information can correctly predict approximately 50% of all critical loads classes. In addition, 77% of sites fall within one critical loads class of that predicted. Predictions may be improved by including other variables eg altitude and geographical location. Differences between lake, stream and reservoir sites are also examined. Ranges of critical loads values were determined for each of the five classes of surface water sensitivity. While a trend in critical load values was evident between classes, there was significant overlap. A simplified sensitivity map with only three classes related more closely to critical loads values. The paper demonstrates the usefulness of the surface water sensitivity map for assessing acidification at a national scale, but highlights the difficulties of predicting critical loads for individual sensitive catchments using national data.