Aluminum toxicity risk reduction as a result of reduced acid deposition in Adirondack lakes and ponds

  • Toby M. Michelena
  • Jeremy L. Farrell
  • David A. Winkler
  • Christine A. Goodrich
  • Charles W. Boylen
  • James W. Sutherland
  • Sandra A. Nierzwicki-Bauer


In 1990, the US Congress amended the Clean Air Act (CAA) to reduce regional-scale ecosystem degradation from SOx and NOx emissions which have been responsible for acid deposition in regions such as the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. An ecosystem assessment project was conducted from 1994 to 2012 by the Darrin Fresh Water Institute to determine the effect of these emission reduction policies on aquatic systems. The project investigated water chemistry and biota in 30 Adirondack lakes and ponded waters. Although regulatory changes made in response to the 1990 CAA amendments resulted in a reduction of acid deposition within the Adirondacks, the ecosystem response to these reductions is complicated. A statistical analysis of SO4, pH, Al, and DOC data collected during this project demonstrates positive change in response to decreased deposition. The changes in water chemistry also have lowered the risk of Al toxicity to brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis [Mitchill]), which allowed the re-introduction of this species to Brooktrout Lake from which it had been extirpated. However, pH and labile aluminum (Alim) fluctuate and are not strongly correlated to changes in acid deposition. As such, toxicity to S. fontinalis also is cyclic and provides rationale for the difficulties inherent in re-establishing resident populations in impacted aquatic environments. Overall, aquatic ecosystems of the Adirondacks show a positive response to reduced deposition driven by changes in environmental policy, but the response is more complex and indicates an ecosystem-wide interaction between aquatic and watershed components of the ecosystem.


Adirondacks Acid deposition Al toxicity pH Brook trout Sulfur dioxide 


  1. Asbury, C. E., Vertucci, F. A., Mattson, M. D., & Likens, G. E. (1989). Acidification of Adirondack lakes. Environmental Science and Technology, 23, 362–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. ASTDR (2008). Toxicological profile for aluminum (p. 357). Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.Google Scholar
  3. Berggren, D., & Mulder, J. (1995). The role of organic matter in controlling aluminum solubility in acidic mineral soil horizons. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 59, 4167–4180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Biosonics (1989). Sonar for fisheries research: an introductory guide to hydroacoustics. Seattle, WA: BioSonics, Incorporated.Google Scholar
  5. Blaise, B., Clague, J. J., & Mathewes, R. W. (1990). Time of maximum late Wisconsin glaciation, west coast of Canada. Quaternary Research, 34, 282–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bowen, H. J. M. (1966). Trace elements in biochemistry. New York, NY: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  7. Brewer, R., & Pelchar, T. (1963). Brooktrout Lake P874. Lake and Pond Survey. New York State Department of Conservation. Ray Brook, NY.Google Scholar
  8. Cleavland, L., Little, E. E., Wiedmeyer, R. H., & Buckler, D. R. (1989). Chronic no-observed-effect concentrations of aluminum for brook trout exposed in low-calcium dilute acidic water. In T. E. Lewis (Ed.), Environmental chemistry and toxicology of aluminum (p. 350). Chelsea, Michigan: Lewis Publishers.Google Scholar
  9. Cronan, C. S., & Schofield, C. L. (1979). Aluminum leaching response to acid precipitation: effects on high-elevation watersheds in the northeast. Science, 204, 305–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dietrich, D., & Schlatter, C. (1989). Aluminum toxicity to rainbow trout at low pH. Aquatic Toxicology, 15, 197–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dijkstra, F. A., & Fitzhugh, R. D. (2003). Aluminum solubility and mobility in relation to organic carbon in surface soils affected by six tree species of the northeastern United States. Geoderma, 114, 33–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Driscoll, C. T. (1985). Aluminum in acidic surface waters: chemistry, transport and effects. Environmental Health Perspectives, 64, 93–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Driscoll, C. T., & Postek, K. M. (1996). The chemistry of aluminum in surface waters. In G. Sposito (Ed.), The environmental chemistry of aluminum (pp. 363–418). New York, New York: Lewis Publishers.Google Scholar
  14. Driscoll, C. T., Lawrence, G. B., Bulger, A. J., Butler, T. J., Cronan, C. S., Eagar, C., et al. (2001). Acidic deposition in the northeastern United States: sources and inputs, ecosystem effects, and management strategies. Bioscience, 51, 180–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Duncan, A., & Kubecka, J. (1996). Patchiness of longitudinal fish distributions in a rive as revealed by continuous hydroacoustic survey. ICES Journal of Marine Science: Journal Du Conseil, 53, 161–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Environment Canada (2010). Priority substances list assessment report: follow-up to the state of the science report, 2000 for aluminum chloride, aluminum nitrate and aluminum sulfate (p. 211). Ottawa, Ontario: Environment Canada and Health Canada.Google Scholar
  17. Gensemer, R. W., & Playle, R. C. (1999). The bioavailability and toxicity of aluminum in aquatic environments. Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology, 29, 315–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gibson, J., & Linthurst, R. (1982). Effects of acidic precipitation on the North American continent. In T. Schneider & L. Grant (Eds.), Air pollution by nitrogen oxides (pp. 577–600). Amsterdam: Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ingersoll, C. G., Mount, D. R., Gulley, D. D., Point, T. W. L., & Bergman, H. L. (1990). Effects of pH, aluminum, and calcium on survival and growth of eggs and fry of brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis). Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 47, 1580–1592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lantiegne, E., & Wich, K. (1969). Brook Trout Lake P874. Lake and Pond Survey. New York State Department of Conservation. Ray Brook, NY.Google Scholar
  21. Lawrence, G. B., David, M. B., & Shortle, W. C. (1995). A new mechanism for calcium loss in forest-floor soils. Nature, 378, 162–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lawrence, G. B., Sutherland, J. W., Boylen, C. W., Nierzwicki-Bauer, S. A., Momen, B., Baldigo, B. P., et al. (2007). Acid rain effects on aluminum mobilization clarified by inclusion of strong organic acids. Environmental Science and Technology, 41, 93–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Likens, G. E., & Bormann, F. H. (1974). Acid rain: a serious regional environmental problem. Science, 184, 1176–1179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Malakoff, D. (2010). Taking the sting out of acid rain. Science, 330, 910–911.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. McCartney, A. G., Harriman, R., Watt, A. W., Moore, D. W., Taylor, E. M., Collen, P., et al. (2003). Long-term trends in pH, aluminum and dissolved organic carbon in Scottish fresh waters; implications for brown trout (Salmo trutta) survival. The Science of the Total Environment, 310, 133–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. McDonald, J., Louis, M., Evangelou, V. P., & Bertsch, P. M. (1998). The potential role of sediment mineralogy in regulating aluminum concentrations in lakewater. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, 104, 41–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Menz, F. C., & Seip, H. M. (2004). Acid rain in Europe and the United States: an update. Environmental Science and Policy, 7, 253–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Methe, B. A., & Zehr, J. P. (1999). Diversity of bacterial communities in Adirondack lakes: do species assemblages reflect lake water chemistry? Hydrobiologia, 401, 77–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Morehouse, B. (1975). Brook Trout Lake P874-B. Lake and Pond Survey. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Ray Brook, NY.Google Scholar
  30. NADP (2013). National Atmospheric Deposition Program. 2013. Champaign, IL: Illinois State Water Survey.Google Scholar
  31. Nierzwicki-Bauer, S. A., Boylen, C. W., Eichler, L. W., Harrison, J. P., Winkler, D. A., Charles, D., et al. (2008). Adirondack Effects Assessment Program. (2008). EPA Final Report. Summary of aquatic biota and watershed integrated nitrogen cycling studies., Corvallis, OR, (p. 522).Google Scholar
  32. Nierzwicki-Bauer, S. A., Boylen, C. W., Eichler, L. W., Harrison, J. P., Sutherland, J. W., Shaw, W., et al. (2010). Acidification in the Adirondacks: defining the biota in trophic levels of 30 chemically diverse acid-impacted lakes. Environmental Science and Technology, 44, 5721–5727.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nierzwicki-Bauer, S. A., Boylen, C. W., Sutherland, J. W., Eichler, L. W., Farrell, J. L., Goodrich, C. A., et al. (2014). Chemical and biological monitoring of Adirondack lakes to examine ecosystem impacts and recovery from sulfur and nitrogen deposition. NYSERDA Final Report., Albany, NY.Google Scholar
  34. NYSDEC. (2013). Air monitoring stations. 2013. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY.Google Scholar
  35. NYSDEC. (2014). Brooktrout Lake stocking card records. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Raybrook, NY.Google Scholar
  36. Omernik, J., & Powers, C. (1982). Total alkalinity of surface waters—a national map. EPA-600/D-82-333. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Corvallis, Oregon, 1982.Google Scholar
  37. Pait, A. S., Whitall, D. R., Jeffery, D. F. G., Caldow, C., Mason, A. L., Christensen, J. D., et al. (2007). An assessment of chemical contaminants in the marine sediments of southwest Puerto Rico (p. 116). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Silver Spring, MD.Google Scholar
  38. Pfeiffer, M. (1950). New York State Conservation Department Lake and Pond Survey, August 8–11 (Brooktrout Lake). New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY.Google Scholar
  39. Playle, R. C. (1998). Modelling metal interactions at fish gills. Science of the Total Environment, 219, 147–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rosseland, B. O., Eldhuset, T. D., & Staurnes, M. (1990). Environmental effects of aluminum. Environmental Geochemical Health, 12, 17–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Schofield, C. (1976). Acid precipitation—effects on fish. Ambio, 5, 228–230.Google Scholar
  42. Siegfried, C. A., & Sutherland, J. W. (1989). Empirical prediction of zooplankton biomass in Adirondack lakes. Lake and Reservoir Management, 5, 91–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Silver, L. T. (1969). A geochronologic investigation of the anorthosite complex, Adirondack Mountains, New York. In Y. W. Isachsen (Ed.), Origin of anorthosites and related rocks: New York State Museum and Science Service Memoir. 18 (pp. 233–252).Google Scholar
  44. StataCorp. (2009). Stata Statistical Software: release 11. StataCorp LP, College Station, TX.Google Scholar
  45. Sutherland, J. W. (1989). Final report: Adirondack biota project—field surveys of the biota and selected water chemistry parameters in 50 Adirondack mountain lakes (p. 220). US Environmental Protection Agency/North Carolina State University Acid Precipitation Program. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY. + appendices.Google Scholar
  46. Sutherland, J. W., Acker, F. W., Bloomfield, J. A., Boylen, C. W., Daniels, D. F., et al. (2015). Brooktrout Lake case study—biotic recovery from acid deposition 20 years after the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. Environmental Science and Technology, 49, 2665–2674.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Trenfield, M. A., Markich, S., Ng, J. C., Noller, B., & van Dam, R. A. (2012). Dissolved organic carbon reduces the toxicity of aluminum to three tropical freshwater organisms. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 31, 427–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. USEPA (1988). Ambient aquatic life water quality criteria for aluminum, Office of Research and Development ERL (p. 54). Washington, DC: USEPA Office of Water.Google Scholar
  49. Uutala, A. J. (1990). Chaoborus (Diptera: Chaoboridae) mandibles—paleollimnological indicators of the historical status of fish populations in acid-sensitive lakes. Journal of Paleolimnology, 4, 139–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wallace, E. R. (1894). Descriptive guide to the Adirondacks, (Land of the Thousand Lakes) and to Saratoga Springs; Schroon Lake; Lakes Luzerne, George, and Champlain; The Ausable Chasm; The Thousand Island: Massena Springs; and Trenton Falls, 8th ed.; Published by author, Syracuse, NY.
  51. Waller, K., Driscoll, C., Lynch, J., Newcomb, D., & Roy, K. (2012). Long-term recovery of lakes in the Adirondack region of New York to decreases in acidic deposition. Atmospheric Environment, 46, 56–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Witters, H. E., Van Puymbroeck, S., Vangenechten, J. H. D., & Vanderborght, O. L. J. (1990). The effect of humic substances on the toxicity of aluminum to adult rainbow trout, Onchorhynchus mykiss (Walbaum). Journal of Fish Biology, 37, 43–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Toby M. Michelena
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jeremy L. Farrell
    • 1
  • David A. Winkler
    • 1
  • Christine A. Goodrich
    • 1
  • Charles W. Boylen
    • 1
  • James W. Sutherland
    • 3
  • Sandra A. Nierzwicki-Bauer
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Darrin Fresh Water Institute and Department of Biological SciencesRensselaer Polytechnic InstituteTroyUSA
  2. 2.Wenzhou-Kean UniversityWenzhouChina
  3. 3.Division of WaterNew York State Department of Environmental Conservation (retired)AlbanyUSA
  4. 4.Darrin Fresh Water InstituteBolton LandingUSA

Personalised recommendations