Limited stream chemistry and macroinvertebrate data indicate that acidic deposition has adversely affected benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages in numerous headwater streams of the western Adirondack Mountains of New York. No studies, however, have quantified the effects that acidic deposition and acidification may have had on resident fish and macroinvertebrate communities in streams of the region. As part of the Western Adirondack Stream Survey, water chemistry from 200 streams was sampled five times and macroinvertebrate communities were surveyed once from a subset of 36 streams in the Oswegatchie and Black River Basins during 2003-2005 and evaluated to: (a) document the effects that chronic and episodic acidification have on macroinvertebrate communities across the region, (b) define the relations between acidification and the health of affected species assemblages, and (c) assess indicators and thresholds of biological effects. Concentrations of inorganic Al in 66% of the 200 streams periodically reached concentrations toxic to acid-tolerant biota. A new acid biological assessment profile (acidBAP) index for macroinvertebrates, derived from percent mayfly richness and percent acid-tolerant taxa, was strongly correlated (R2 values range from 0.58 to 0.76) with concentrations of inorganic Al, pH, ANC, and base cation surplus (BCS). The BCS and acidBAP index helped remove confounding influences of natural organic acidity and to redefine acidification-effect thresholds and biological-impact categories. AcidBAP scores indicated that macroinvertebrate communities were moderately or severely impacted by acidification in 44-56% of 36 study streams, however, additional data from randomly selected streams is needed to accurately estimate the true percentage of streams in which macroinvertebrate communities are adversely affected in this, or other, regions. As biologically relevant measures of impacts caused by acidification, both BCS and acidBAP may be useful indicators of ecosystem effects and potential recovery at the local and regional scale.
Additional publication details
Impacts of acidification on macroinvertebrate communities in streams of the western Adirondack Mountains, New York, USA