Acid rain and its effects on sediments in lakes and streams

Abstract

Wet and dry deposition of acidic substances, which are emitted to the atmosphere by human activities, have been falling on increasingly widespread areas throughout the world in recent decades. As a result, annual precipitation averages less than pH 4.5 over large areas of the Northern Temperate Zone, and not infrequently, individual rainstorms and cloud or fog-water events have pH values less than 3. Concurrently, thousands of lakes and streams in North America and Europe have become so acidified that they no longer support viable populations of fish and other organisms.

Acid deposition may affect sediments in lakes and streams in a variety of ways. In particular, the sediment-water exchange of metals, sulfur, nitrogen and phosphorus, microbial processes, growth of periphyton and macrophytes, and benthic invertebrates may be affected.

Overall, the effects of acid deposition on lake and stream ecosystems are the result of numerous and complex biogeochemical interactions, including catchment characteristics, flow path and residence time of water, and lake-basin morphometry and acid neutralization capacity of both aquatic and terrestrial (catchment) ecosystems.

Suggestions for future research are given.

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Likens, G.E. Acid rain and its effects on sediments in lakes and streams. Hydrobiologia 176, 331–348 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00026568

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Key words

  • acid rain
  • sediment-water exchange
  • biogeochemistry
  • water pollution
  • aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem interaction