Recovery of Surface Waters in the Northeastern U.S. from Decreases in Atmospheric Deposition of Sulfur
- Cite this article as:
- Driscoll, C., Likens, G. & Church, M. Water, Air, & Soil Pollution (1998) 105: 319. doi:10.1023/A:1005008315977
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A simple mass flux model was developed to simulate the response of SO42- concentrations in surface waters to past and anticipated future changes in atmospheric deposition of SO42-. Values of bulk (or wet) SO42- deposition and dry deposition of S determined from measured air concentrations and a deposition velocity were insufficient to balance watershed SO42- export at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, NH and for a regional survey of watersheds in the northeastern U.S. We propose two explanations for the unmeasured S source: 1) a significant underestimation of dry S deposition, and/or 2) internal watershed S sources, such as weathering and/or mineralization of soil organic S. Model simulations based on these two mechanisms agreed closely with measured stream SO42- concentrations at Hubbard Brook. Close agreement between measured and model predicted results precluded identification of which of the two mechanisms controlled long-term trends in stream SO42-. Model simulations indicated that soil adsorption reactions significantly delayed the response of stream water to declines in SO42- inputs since 1970, but could not explain the discrepancy in watershed S budgets. Extrapolation of model predictions into the future demonstrates that uncertainty in the source of the S imbalance in watersheds has important implications for assessments of the recovery of surface water acid neutralizing capacity in response to anticipated future reductions in SO2 emissions.