A novel index of susceptibility of rivers and their catchments to acidification in regions subject to a maritime influence

C C White, R Smart, M Stutter, M S Cresser, M F Billett, E A Elias, C Soulsby, S Langan, A C Edwards, A Wade, R Ferrier, C Neal, H Jarvie, R Owen

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A simple, unifying approach to classifying quantitatively the susceptibility of catchment soils and surface waters to acidification is suggested. In areas subject to a strong maritime influence, such as the UK and substantial parts of NW Europe, wherever soil mineral weathering rates are low and soils are unfertilised, atmospherically derived base cations of maritime origins have a greater effect than those derived from biogeochemical weathering on the exchangeable soil base cations. This is directly reflected in the relative base cation concentrations of the associated drainage waters, which become increasingly Na-dominated. Using 10 sub-catchments of the River Dee in northeastern Scotland, it is shown here that the extent of Na dominance, the ratio of Na+ to Sigma Na+ +Ca2+ + Mg2+, at any point in a river provides a quantitative index of the upstream weathering rate and thus of the susceptibility of the river concerned to acidification under diverse flow conditions. Data from a further 58 sub-catchments from the same river system, and from 4 other catchments from around Scotland, were used to validate this theory. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1093-1099
Number of pages7
JournalApplied Geochemistry : Journal of the International Association of Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry
Publication statusPublished - 1999



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