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Individual Highlight

Sensitivity of Southern Appalachian Watersheds to Acidic Deposition

Photo of Wet sulfate deposition in high-elevation southern Appalachian watersheds has decreased over time. U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Wet sulfate deposition in high-elevation southern Appalachian watersheds has decreased over time. U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Snapshot : High-elevation forested watershed streams remain acidic even though acid deposition has declined. Land managers have long sought to identify and restore watersheds remaining impacted by chronic acid deposition. Forest Service scientists studied high-elevation southern Appalachian watersheds across a gradient of acidic deposition to identify measurements that could be used to index stream acid neutralizing capacity and pH, and to estimate the lime required to restore watersheds.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Knoepp, Jennifer D. 
Research Location : Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests
Research Station : Southern Research Station (SRS)
Year : 2016
Highlight ID : 1093

Summary

High-elevation forested watershed streams remain acidic even though acid deposition has declined. Land managers have long sought to identify and restore watersheds remaining impacted by chronic acid deposition. Forest Service scientists conducted a study in high-elevation southern Appalachian watersheds across a gradient of acidic deposition to identify parameters that could be used as indices of stream acid neutralizing capacity and pH, and to estimate the lime required to restore catchments from the effects acid deposition. Above ground measurements of trees' width and height indicated watershed acidity, as did belowground indicators, namely soil mineralogy, carbon content, and soil chemistry. Initial estimates of lime requirement will help land managers target the watersheds and streams where lime application would have the greatest probability of reducing stream acidity, and the measures of how biotic, physical and chemical indicators relate to stream acidity could provide insight to selecting forested watersheds for restoration treatments.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, National Forests of North Carolina
  • National Science Foundation Long-Term Ecological Research Program