, Volume 88, Issue 3, pp 251–263 | Cite as

Ecology of streams draining forested and non-forested catchments in an area of central Scotland subject to acid precipitation

  • R. Harriman
  • B. R. S. Morrison


A study of 12 streams draining forested and non-forested catchments was made in an area of central Scotland where slow-weathering bedrock was predominantly quartzite, schists and slates. Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis Carriere) was the most common tree species. Precipitation in the area had an annual mean pH in the range 4.3–4.5. Streams within the planted zone were always more acid than those outside and had higher concentrations of aluminium and manganese. With one exception, trout were absent from streams within long-established forests and planted salmon eggs (Salmo salar L.) died within a few weeks. A high proportion of such eggs survived in streams outside the forest. Siphlonurus lacustris Eaton was the only mayfly nymph found in the most acid streams in summer collections. In winter samples, mayfly nymphs, Heptagenia lateralis (Curtis) were found in only one forest stream but several species were present in the non-forested catchments. It is suggested that spruce forests can effectively collect acid pollutants which are subsequently washed out, thus accelerating the acidification of the soil. Streams therefore become increasingly acid as the neutralisation capacities of their catchments decrease.


acid rain acid streams coniferous forest fish invertebrate fauna 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alabaster, J. S. & Lloyd, R., 1980. Water Quality Criteria for Freshwater Fish. Butterworth, London.Google Scholar
  2. Almer, B., 1974. Effect of acidification on Swedish Lakes. Ambio 3: 30–36.Google Scholar
  3. Beamish, R. J., 1974. Loss of fish populations from unexploited remote lakes in Ontario, Canada as a consequence of atmospheric fallout of acid. Wat. Res. 8: 85–95.Google Scholar
  4. Black, U. S., 1957. Excretion and osmoregulation. In: Brown, M. E. (ed.) The Physiology of Fishes. Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  5. Bua, B. & Snekvik, E., 1972. Kelleforsøk med rogn av laksefisk 1966–1971. Virkning av surhet og saltinnhold i klekkevannet. Vann 7: 86–93.Google Scholar
  6. Calder, I. R. & Newson, M. D., 1979. Land use and upland water resources in Britain — a strategic look. Wat. Resour. Bull. 15: 1628–1639.Google Scholar
  7. Carrick, T. R., 1979. The effect of acid water on the hatching of salmonid eggs. J. Fish. Biol. 14: 165–172.Google Scholar
  8. Cronan, C. S., Reiners, W. A., Reynolds, R. C. Jr. & Long, G. E., 1978. Forest floor leaching. Contributions of mineral, organic and carbonic acids in New Hampshire subalpine forests. Science 200: 309–311.Google Scholar
  9. Cronan, C. S. & Schofield, C. L., 1979. Aluminium leaching response to acid precipitation. Effects on high elevation watersheds in the north west. Science 204: 304–306.Google Scholar
  10. Cronan, C. S., Reiners, W. A. & Reynolds, R. C. Jr., 1980. The impact of acid precipitation on forest canopies and soils in the northeastern U.S. In: Proc. Internat. Conf. Ecological Impact of Acid precipitation, Sandefjord, Norway, pp. 158–159.Google Scholar
  11. Cuthbert, A. W. & Maetz, J., 1972. Effect of Ca++ and Mg++ on sodium fluxes through the gills of Carassius auratus. J. Physiol. 221: 633–643.Google Scholar
  12. Dahl, K., 1927. The effects of acid water on trout fry. Salm. Trout Mag. 46: 35–43.Google Scholar
  13. Daye, P. G. & Garside, E. T., 1979. Development and survival of embryos and alevins of the Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L., continuously exposed to acid levels of pH from fertilisation. Can. J. Zool. 57: 1713–1718.Google Scholar
  14. Dickson, W., 1978. Some effects of the acidification of Swedish Lakes. Verh. int. Verein Limnol. 20: 851–856.Google Scholar
  15. Dougan, W. K. & Wilson, A. L., 1974. The absorptiometric determination of aluminium in water. A comparison of some chromogenic reagents and the development of an improved method. Analyst 99: 413–430.Google Scholar
  16. Driscoll, C. T. Jr., Baker, J. P., Bisogni, J. J. Jr. & Schofield, C. L., 1980. Effect of aluminium speciation on fish in dilute acidified waters. Nature 284: 161–164.Google Scholar
  17. Eddy, F. B., 1975. The effect of calcium on gill potentials and on sodium and chloride fluxes in the goldfish Carassius auratus. J. comp. Physiol. 96: 131–142.Google Scholar
  18. Egglishaw, H. J., 1964. The distributional relationship between the bottom fauna and plant detritus in streams. J. anim. Ecol. 33: 463–476.Google Scholar
  19. Elliot, J. M., 1971. Some Methods for the Statistical Analysis of Samples of Benthic Invertebrates. Freshwater Biological Association, Scientific Publ. No. 25, Wilson & Son, Kendal, Cumbria, England.Google Scholar
  20. Evans, D. H., 1975. Ion exchange mechanisms in fish gills. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. 51A: 491–495.Google Scholar
  21. Fowler, D., 1980. Removal of sulphur and nitrogen compounds from the atmosphere in rain and by dry deposition. In: Proc. Internat. Conf. Ecological Impact of Acid Precipitation, Sandefjord, Norway, pp. 22–32.Google Scholar
  22. Glover, G. M. & Webb, A. H., 1979. Weak and strong acids in the surface waters of the Tovdal region in S. Norway. Wat. Res. 13: 781–783.Google Scholar
  23. Gran, G., 1952. Determination of the equivalence point on potentiometric titrations: Part II. The Analyst 77: 661–671.Google Scholar
  24. Harriman, R., 1978. Nutrient leaching from fertilised forest watersheds in Scotland. J. appl. Ecol. 15: 933–942.Google Scholar
  25. Harris, G. S., 1973. A simple egg box planting technique for estimating the survival of eggs deposited in stream gravel. J. Fish Biol. 5: 85–88.Google Scholar
  26. Henderson, G. S., Harris, W. F., Todd, D. E. Jr. & Grizzard, T., 1977. Quantity and chemistry of throughfall as influenced by forest type and season. J. Ecol. 65: 365–374.Google Scholar
  27. Henriksen, A., 1979. A simple approach for identifying and measuring acidification of freshwater. Nature 278: 542–545.Google Scholar
  28. Henriksen, A., 1980. Acidification of freshwaters — a large scale titration. In: Proc. Internat. Symp. Ecological Effects of Acid Precipitation, S.N.S. F. Project Å — Norway (in press).Google Scholar
  29. Jenson, K. W. & Snekvik, E., 1972. Low pH levels wipe out salmon and trout populations in southernmost Norway. Ambio 1: 223–225.Google Scholar
  30. Johansson, N., Runn, P. & Milbrink, G., 1977. Early development of three salmonid species in acidified water. Zoon 5: 127–132.Google Scholar
  31. Johnson, N. M., 1979. Acid rain: neutralisation within the Hubbard Brook ecosystem and regional implications. Science 204: 497–499.Google Scholar
  32. Jones, J. R. E., 1948. The fauna of four streams in the ‘Black Mountain’ district of South Wales. J. anim. Ecol. 17: 51–65.Google Scholar
  33. Kuhn, O. & Koecke, H. U., 1956. Histologische und cytologische Veränderungen der Fischkieme nach Einwirkung in Wasser enthaltener schädigender Substanzen. Z. Zellforsch. mikrosk. Anat. 43: 611–643.Google Scholar
  34. Leivestad, H., Henry, C., Munz, I. P. & Snekvik, E., 1976. Effect of acid precipitation on freshwater organisms. In: S.N.S.F. Project Research Report 6. Impact of acid precipitation on forest and freshwater ecosystems in Norway 86–111.Google Scholar
  35. Likens, G. E., Bormann, F. H., Pierce, R. S., Eaton, J. S. & Johnson, N. W., 1977. Biogeochemistry of a Forested Ecosystem. Springer-Verlag, New York.Google Scholar
  36. Lloyd, R. & Jordan, D. H. M., 1964. Some factors affecting the resistance of rainbow trout (Salmo gairdnerii) to acid waters. Int. J. Air Wat. Pollut. 8: 393–403.Google Scholar
  37. Macan, T. T., 1961. A Key to Nymphs of the British Species of Ephemeroptera. Freshwater Biological Association, Scientific Publication No. 20.Google Scholar
  38. Mackereth, F. J. H., Heron, J. & Talling, J. F., 1978. Water Analysis: Some Revised Methods for Limnologists. F.B.A. Scientific Publication No. 36.Google Scholar
  39. McFee, W. W., Kelly, J. M. & Beck, R. H., 1977. Acid precipitation effects on soil pH and base saturation of exchange sites. Wat. Air Soil Pollut. 7: 401–408.Google Scholar
  40. McWilliams, P. & Potts, W., 1978. The effects of pH and calcium concentrations on gill potential in the Brown Trout. J. comp. Physiol. 126: 277–286.Google Scholar
  41. Miller, H. G. & Miller, J. D., 1980. Collection and retention of atmospheric pollutants by vegetation. In: Proc. Int. Conf. Ecological Impact of Acid Precipitation Sandefjord, Norway 33–40.Google Scholar
  42. Mills, D. H., 1967. A study of trout and young salmon populations on forest streams with a view to management. Forestry 40 Suppl.: 85–90.Google Scholar
  43. Morgan, N. G. & Egglishaw, H. J., 1965. A stream survey of the bottom fauna of streams in the Scottish Highlands. Part I. Composition of the fauna. Hydrobiologia 25: 181–211.Google Scholar
  44. Nihlgard, B., 1970. Precipitation, its chemical composition and effect on soil water in a beech and spruce forest in south Sweden. Oikos 21: 208–217.Google Scholar
  45. Nihlgard, B., 1972. Plant biomass, primary production and distribution of chemical elements in a beech and planted spruce forest in south Sweden. Oikos 23: 69–81.Google Scholar
  46. Packer, R. K. & Dunson, W. A., 1970. Effects of low environmental pH on blood and sodium balance of Brook Trout. J. exp. Zool. 174: 65–72.Google Scholar
  47. Rosenqvist, I. Th., 1978. Alternative sources for acidification of river water in Norway. The Science of the Total Environment 10: 39–49.Google Scholar
  48. Schofield, C. L., 1976. Acid precipitation: effects on fish. Ambio 5: 228–230.Google Scholar
  49. Seip, H. M. & Tollan, A., 1978. Acid precipitation and other possible sources for acidification of rivers and lakes. The Science of the Total Environment 10: 253–270.Google Scholar
  50. Smith, B. D., 1980. The effects of afforestation on the trout of a small stream in southern Scotland. Fish. Mgnt. 11: 39–58.Google Scholar
  51. Standing Committee of Analysts, 1978. Methods of Biological Sampling, Handnet Sampling of Aquatic Benthic Macroinvertebrates. Department of the Environment/National Water Council. HMSO London.Google Scholar
  52. Sutcliffe, D. W. & Carrick, T. R., 1973. Studies on mountain streams in the English Lake District 1. pH, calcium and the distribution of invertebrates in the River Duddon. Freshwat. Biol. 3: 437–62.Google Scholar
  53. Voigt, G. K., 1980. Acid precipitation and soil buffer capacity. In: Proc. Internat. Conf. Ecological Impact of Acid Precipitation, Sandefjord, Norway, pp. 53–57.Google Scholar
  54. Westfall, B. A., 1945. Coagulation anoxia in fishes. Ecology 26: 283–287.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Dr W. Junk Publishers 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Harriman
    • 1
  • B. R. S. Morrison
    • 1
  1. 1.Freshwater Fisheries LaboratoryPerthshireScotland

Personalised recommendations