Watershed Acidification — A Chromatographic Process
Drainage watersheds acidify from the top down. The acidification involves the stripping of base cations, Al, and Fe from various reservoirs. A front of acidification moves downstream from the head of the watershed. As base cations become depleted, they are removed from the watershed. Al and Fe, however, move progressively downstream, eluted by acid and precipitated in higher pH regions of the watershed. As they do, acid neutralizing capacity accumulates in streambeds. This capacity must be stripped by progressive acidification before the stream (and lower lakes) can become chronically acidic. The capacity of this mechanism may be sufficient to retard chronic acidification by years. The mechanism of translocation of Al and Fe and, to a lesser extent, base cations serves to damp episodic pH depressions in streams and extend the recovery from periods of low pH.
KeywordsBiomass Migration Sulfide Depression Silicate
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