Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences


New findings on the recovery of streams from acidification

Photo taken in Gammtratten, one of the Swedish sites for Integrated Monitoring (IM). Photo: Stefan Löfgren.

Researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) report that the recovery of watercourses from acidification is slowed down by processes in the damp banks of forest streams (riparian zone). For instance, in the forest stream banks you find aluminium, which will transform into a form that is toxic to fish, when transported into the streams.

The deposition of acidifying substances has decreased substantially since the early 1990's, leading to a decreased acidification pressure on lakes and streams. The recovery rate has been much slower than expected, though.

Aluminium, which is toxic to fish in its inorganic form, is one of the examples illustrating that the recovery rate differ in different parts of the landscape. New findings are described in a special issue of the journal Ambio* summarising results from the Swedish integrated monitoring programme (IM)**.

“We see that the reduced acidification pressure does not give an equal impact in all parts of the forest landscape. On higher grounds, aluminium now precipitates in the soil and is trapped to a much higher degree, as expected. But in damp and low lying areas we still find high levels of aluminium bound to humic substances. Since the streams are still quite acidic, the aluminium is partly transformed to its toxic form, when these humic substances enter the streams,” says Stefan Löfgren, Senior Research Officer at SLU.

The reason that forest streams is still quite acidic is in large part due to the weather conditions during the past decades, generating an increased runoff of water from the humus-rich, shallow soil layers. This in turn, has given an increased outflow of organic acids from the ground and makes the streams acidic, despite that the acidifying deposition has decreased.

Further reading

Stefan Löfgren, Senior Research Officer at the Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, SLU, +46-70-69 55 177.

*Special issue of the journal Ambio on ”Integrated monitoring in Sweden”  Opens in new window containing seven articles.

** Read more about Integrated Monitoring in Sweden Opens in new window(IM).

About the International Cooperative Programme (ICP) on Integrated Monitoring of Air Pollution Effects on Ecosystems Opens in new window.

The work on integrated monitoring is connected to SLU’s Environmental and assessment programs Forest and Acidification.

Published by: Ann-Katrin Hallin

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