DYNAMICS OF P, Al, AND Fe DURING HIGH DISCHARGE EPISODIC ACIDIFICATION AT THE BEAR BROOK WATERSHED IN MAINE, U.S.A.

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Abstract

Phosphorus (P), aluminum (Al), and iron (Fe) stream chemistry were assessed for high discharge snowmelt events at the Bear Brook Watershed, Maine (BBWM) during December 2001 and February 2002 and compared with results from a January 1995 study of the same streams. The West Bear catchment has been subjected to artificial acidification since 1989. The East Bear catchment is the untreated reference. Total (acid soluble) Al, Fe, and P were positively correlated with discharge during the 2001–2002 events. However, dissolved P concentrations remained low (≤0.1 μmol L−1) during high discharge events as pH decreased in both streams. For example, in 2001, total P concentration increased to 1.7 μmol L−1during the rising limb of the hydrograph in West Bear, approximately five times the value in East Bear. During the same event, in West Bear and East Bear dissolved Al concentrations increased to 21 and 6.3 μmol L−1, respectively, while total Al concentrations increased to 166 and 30 μmol L−1, respectively. Dissolved Fe concentrations remained ≤0.9 μmol L−1in both streams during all study events. However, total Fe concentrations in 2001 increased to 239 and 4.1 μmol L−1for West Bear and East Bear, respectively. Total Al and Fe declined parallel to total P after peaking during all study periods. Nearly all of the base cations were in dissolved form during the three events, indicating that total Al in West and East Bear Brooks is not associated with primary minerals such as feldspars. We conclude that particulate Al, Fe, and P are chemically linked during transport at high discharge in these episodically and chronically acidified streams.

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