Atmospheric acid deposition has decreased in the northeastern United States since the 1970s, resulting in modest increases in pH, acid-neutralizing capacity (ANC), and decreases in inorganic monomeric aluminum (AlIM) concentrations since stream chemistry monitoring began in the 1980s in the acid-sensitive upper Neversink River basin in the Catskill Mountains of New York. Stream pH has increased by 0.01 units/year during 1987-2003 at three sites in the Neversink basin as determined by Seasonal Kendall trend analysis. In light of this observed decrease in stream acidity, we sampled 12 stream sites within the Neversink River watershed for water chemistry, macroinvertebrates, fish, and periphytic diatoms in 2003 to compare with a similar data set collected in 1987. Metrics and indices that reflect sensitivity to stream acidity were developed with these biological data to determine whether changes in stream biota over the intervening 16 years parallel those of stream chemistry. Statistical comparisons of data on stream chemistry and an acid biological assessment profile (Acid BAP) derived from invertebrate data showed no significant differences between the two years. For pH and ANC, however, values in 2003 were generally lower than those in 1987; this difference likely resulted from higher streamflow in summer 2003. Despite these likely flow-induced changes in summer 2003, an ordination and cluster analysis of macroinvertebrate taxa based on the Acid BAP indicated that the most acidic sites in the upstream half of the East Branch Neversink River form a statistically significant separate cluster consistent with less acidic stream conditions. This analysis is consistent with limited recovery of invertebrate species in the most acidic reaches of the river, but will require additional improvement in stream chemistry before a stronger conclusion can be drawn. Data on the fish and periphytic diatom communities in 2003 indicate that slimy sculpin had not extended their habitat to upstream reaches that previously were devoid of this acid-intolerant species in 1987; a diatom acid-tolerance index indicates continued high-acid impact throughout most of the East Branch and headwaters of the West Branch Neversink River. ?? 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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Changes in stream chemistry and biology in response to reduced levels of acid deposition during 1987-2003 in the Neversink River Basin, Catskill Mountains