In the Rocky Mountains, the association of increases in acidic deposition with increased atmospheric loading of sulfate and direct changes in surface water chemistry has been well established. The importance, though, of increased nitrogen (N) deposition in the episodic acidification of alpine lakes and N saturation in alpine ecosystems is only beginning to be documented. In alpine areas of the Colorado Front Range, modest loadings of N in deposition have been associated with leakage of N to surface waters. On the Colorado western slope, however, no leakage of N to surface waters has been reported. A 1995 study that included early season under-ice water samples that were not available in earlier studies showed that there is, in fact, N leakage to surface waters in some western slope basins. Under-ice nitrate (NO3-) concentrations were as high as 10.5 ??q L-1, and only decreased to detection limits in September. Landscape type appears to be important in leakage of N to surface waters, which is associated with basins having steep slopes, thin soils, and large amounts of exposed bedrock. NO3- leakage compounds the existing sensitivity to episodic acidification from low acid neutralizing capacity (ANC), which is less than 40 ??eq L-1 in those basins.
Additional publication details
Seasonal inorganic nitrogen release in alpine lakes on the Colorado western slope