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Transformations of snow chemistry in the boreal forest: Accumulation and volatilization

Hydrological Processes

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Abstract

This paper examines the processes and dynamics of ecologically-important inorganic chemical (primarily NO3-N) accumulation and loss in boreal forest snow during the cold winter period at a northern and southern location in the boreal forest of western Canada. Field observations from Inuvik, Northwest Territories and Waskesiu, Saskatchewan, Canada were used to link chemical transformations and physical processes in boreal forest snow. Data on the disposition and overwinter transformation of snow water equivalent, NO3-, SO42- and other major ions were examined. No evidence of enhanced dry deposition of chemical species to intercepted snow was found at either site except where high atmospheric aerosol concentrations prevailed. At Inuvik, concentrations of SO42- and Cl- were five to six times higher in intercepted snow than in surface snow away from the trees. SO4-S and Cl loads at Inuvik were correspondingly enhanced three-fold within the nearest 0.5 m to individual tree stems. Measurements of snow affected by canopy interception without rapid sublimation provided no evidence of ion volatilization from intercepted snow. Where intercepted snow sublimation rates were significant, ion loads in sub-canopy snow suggested that NO3- volatized with an efficiency of about 62% per snow mass sublimated. Extrapolating this measurement from Waskesiu to sublimation losses observed in other southern boreal environments suggests that 19-25% of snow inputs of NO3- can be lost during intercepted snow sublimation. The amount of N lost during sublimation may be large in high-snowfall, high N load southern boreal forests (Quebec) where 0.42 kg NO3-N ha-1 is estimated as a possible seasonal NO3- volatilization. The sensitivity of the N fluxes to climate and forest canopy variation and implications of the winter N losses for N budgets in the boreal forest are discussed.This paper examines the processes and dynamics of ecologically-important inorganic chemical (primarily NO3-N) accumulation and loss in boreal forest snow during the cold winter period at a northern and southern location in the boreal forest of western Canada. Field observations from Inuvik. Northwest Territories and Waskesiu, Saskatchewan, Canada were used to link chemical transformations and physical processes in boreal forest snow. Data on the disposition and overwinter transformation of snow water equivalent, NO3-, SO42- and other major ions were examined. No evidence of enhanced dry deposition of chemical species to intercepted snow was found at either site except where high atmospheric aerosol concentrations prevailed. At Inuvik, concentrations of SO42- and Cl- were five to six times higher in intercepted snow than in surface snow away from the trees. SO4-S and Cl loads at Inuvik were correspondingly enhanced three-fold within the nearest 0.5 m to individual tree stems. Measurements of snow affected by canopy interception without rapid sublimation provided no evidence of ion volatilization from intercepted snow. Where intercepted snow sublimation rates were significant, ion loads in sub-canopy snow suggested that NO3- volatized with an efficiency of about 62% per snow mass sublimated. Extrapolating this measurement from Waskesiu to sublimation losses observed in other southern boreal environments suggests that 19-25% of snow inputs of NO3- can be lost during intercepted snow sublimation. The amount of N lost during sublimation may be large in high-snowfall, high N load southern boreal forests (Quebec) where 0.42 kg NO3-N ha-1 is estimated as a possible seasonal NO3- volatilization. The sensitivity of the N fluxes to climate and forest canopy variation and implications of the winter N losses for N budgets in the boreal forest are discussed.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Transformations of snow chemistry in the boreal forest: Accumulation and volatilization
Series title:
Hydrological Processes
Volume
13
Issue:
14-15
Year Published:
1999
Language:
English
Publisher:
John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Publisher location:
Chichester, United Kingdom
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Hydrological Processes
First page:
2257
Last page:
2273
Number of Pages:
17