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Weekly precipitation and stream water samples were collected from small watersheds in Denali National Park, Alaska, the Fraser Experimental Forest, Colorado, Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, and the Calumet watershed on the south shore of Lake Superior, Michigan. The objective was to determine if stream water chemistry at the mouth and upstream stations reflected precipitation chemistry across a range of atmospheric inputs of H+, NH4+, NO3-, and SO42-. Volume-weighted precipitation H+, NH4+, NO3-, and SO42- concentrations varied 4 to 8 fold with concentrations highest at Calumet and lowest in Denali. Stream water chemistry varied among sites, but did not reflect precipitation chemistry. The Denali watershed, Rock Creek, had the lowest precipitation NO3- and SO42- concentrations, but the highest stream water NO3and SO42- concentrations. Among sites, the ratio of mean monthly upstream NO3- concentration to precipitation NO3- concentration declined (p < 0.001, R2 = 0.47) as precipitation NO3- concentration increased. The ratio of mean monthly upstream to precipitation SO42- concentration showed no significant relationship to change in precipitation SO42- concentration. Watersheds showed strong retention of inorganic N (> 90 percent inputs) across inputs ranging from 0.12 to > 6 kg N ha-1 y-1. Factors possibly accounting for the weak or non-existent signal between stream water and precipitation ion concentrations include rapid modification of meltwater and precipitation chemistry by soil processes, and the presence of unfrozen soils which permits winter mineralization and nitrification to occur.
Additional Publication Details
Stream water chemistry in watersheds receiving different atmospheric inputs of H+, NH4+, NO3-, and SO42-1
Journal of the American Water Resources Association