, Volume 111, Issue 1–3, pp 393–409 | Cite as

The effect of seasonal drying on sulphate dynamics in streams across southeastern Canada and the northeastern USA

  • J. G. KerrEmail author
  • M. C. Eimers
  • I. F. Creed
  • M. B. Adams
  • F. Beall
  • D. Burns
  • J. L. Campbell
  • S. F. Christopher
  • T. A. Clair
  • F. Courchesne
  • L. Duchesne
  • I. Fernandez
  • D. Houle
  • D. S. Jeffries
  • G. E. Likens
  • M. J. Mitchell
  • J. Shanley
  • H. Yao


Within the southeast Canada and northeast USA region, a peak in sulphate (SO4 2−) concentration has been reported for some streams following periods of substantial catchment drying during the summer months (ON, Canada; VT, NH and NY, USA). However, it is currently unclear if a SO4 2− response to seasonal drying is widespread across the broader region, or to what extent the level of response varies among catchments. In our study, SO4 2− response to seasonal drying was compared in 20 catchments from 11 locations across southeastern Canada (ON, QC and NS) and northeastern USA (NH, NY, VT, WV and ME). Using long-term monitoring data of stream discharge and chemistry, the number of days for each month of the dry season (# d) when discharge (Q) was below a threshold level (25th percentile; Q25) was calculated for each catchment to give a measure of ‘seasonal dryness’ (# d Q < Q25). A SO4 2− response score (rs) was then calculated for each catchment based on linear regression analysis of # d Q < Q25 versus either the annual SO4 2− concentration, or the residual of annual SO4 2− concentration as a function of time (year). The final rs values for each catchment provided an estimate of the proportion of variation in annual SO4 2− concentration which could be explained by seasonal drying (possible rs range = 0–1). Of the 20 catchments, 13 exhibited some level of a SO4 2− response to seasonal drying (rs = 0.04–0.72) with an additional two catchments exhibiting a SO4 2− response for one or more seasons. SO4 2− response scores were positively related to percent wetland area (w) (rs = 1.000 − 0.978e−0.054* w , r 2 = 0.44) and percent saturated area (sat) (rs = 0.481 − 0.488e−0.101* sat, r 2 = 0.54) indicating that wetlands/saturated areas were an important driver of regional variation in the SO4 2− response to seasonal drying. Our results suggest that any shift towards drier summers as a result of climate change could impact SO4 2− dynamics in a large number of catchments throughout the region.


Sulphate Drought Wetlands Seasonal drying Forested streams 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. G. Kerr
    • 1
    Email author
  • M. C. Eimers
    • 1
  • I. F. Creed
    • 2
  • M. B. Adams
    • 3
  • F. Beall
    • 4
  • D. Burns
    • 5
  • J. L. Campbell
    • 6
  • S. F. Christopher
    • 7
  • T. A. Clair
    • 8
  • F. Courchesne
    • 9
  • L. Duchesne
    • 10
  • I. Fernandez
    • 11
  • D. Houle
    • 12
  • D. S. Jeffries
    • 13
  • G. E. Likens
    • 14
  • M. J. Mitchell
    • 15
  • J. Shanley
    • 16
  • H. Yao
    • 17
  1. 1.Department of GeographyTrent UniversityPeterboroughCanada
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada
  3. 3.USDA Forest ServiceParsonsUSA
  4. 4.Natural Resources CanadaCanadian Forest ServiceSault Ste. MarieCanada
  5. 5.US Geological SurveyTroyUSA
  6. 6.US Forest ServiceDurhamUSA
  7. 7.Virginia Water Resources Research CenterVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA
  8. 8.Water Science and Technology BranchEnvironment CanadaSackvilleCanada
  9. 9.Département de GéographieUniversité de MontréalMontrealCanada
  10. 10.Forêt Québec, Ministère Des Ressources NaturellesQuébecCanada
  11. 11.Department of Plant, Soil, and Environmental SciencesUniversity of MaineOronoUSA
  12. 12.Ministère Des Ressources naturelles et de la FauneQuébecCanada
  13. 13.Aquatic Ecosystems Research Impacts Division, National Water Research Institute, Environment CanadaBurlingtonCanada
  14. 14.Cary Institute of Ecosystem StudiesMillbrookUSA
  15. 15.College of Environmental Science and ForestrySUNYSyracuseUSA
  16. 16.US Geological SurveyMontpelierUSA
  17. 17.Ontario Ministry of EnvironmentDorsetCanada

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