Biogeochemistry

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 39–62 | Cite as

Longitudinal and seasonal patterns of stream acidity in a headwater catchment on the Appalachian Plateau, West Virginia, U.S.A.

  • Ross D. Fitzhugh
  • Tanya Furman
  • J. Rick Webb
  • B. Jack Cosby
  • Charles T. Driscoll
Article

Abstract

The chemical composition during baseflow was used to elucidate the fundamental processes controlling longitudinal and seasonal patterns of stream acidity in Yellow Creek, a chronically acidic headwater (pH range 3.7–4.2) on the Appalachian Plateau in northeastern West Virginia. Sulfate concentrations controlled the variability of stream acidity within the Yellow Creek catchment. Decreases in stream free H+ acidity with decreasing elevation likely resulted from SO 4 2− retention in riparian wetland areas as well as spatial variation in dominant tree species. Seasonal variations in free H+ and inorganic monomeric aluminum (Aln+) concentrations appeared related to seasonal fluctuations in baseflow discharge which was controlled by vegetative activity. Baseflow stream discharge, as well as H+ and Aln+ acidity, gradually declined during the growing season (June through October), likely reflecting microbial SO 4 2− reduction in saturated anaerobic environments within riparian wetlands. A marked pulse of stream H+, Aln+, and SO 4 2− coincided with an abrupt increase in baseflow discharge resulting from the cessation of transpiration after leaf-fall in November. This seasonal pattern suggests that autumn may be a critical period for eastern brook trout in streams draining wetlands on the Appalachian Plateau.

Key words

acidic deposition aluminum Appalachian Plateau sulfur watershed studies wetlands 

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ross D. Fitzhugh
    • 1
  • Tanya Furman
    • 1
  • J. Rick Webb
    • 1
  • B. Jack Cosby
    • 1
  • Charles T. Driscoll
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringSyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA

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