Alkalinity increases in large rivers of the conterminous US are well known, but less is understood about the processes leading to these trends as compared with headwater systems more intensively examined in conjunction with acid deposition studies. Nevertheless, large rivers are important conduits of inorganic carbon and other solutes to coastal areas and may have substantial influence on coastal calcium carbonate saturation dynamics. We examined long-term (mid-20th to early 21st century) trends in alkalinity and other weathering products in 23 rivers of the conterminous US. We used a rigorous flow-weighting technique which allowed greater focus on solute trends occurring independently of changes in flow. Increasing alkalinity concentrations and yield were widespread, occurring at 14 and 13 stations, respectively. Analysis of trends in other weathering products suggested that the causes of alkalinity trends were diverse, but at many stations alkalinity increases coincided with decreasing nitrate + sulfate and decreasing cation:alkalinity ratios, which is consistent with recovery from acidification. A positive correlation between the Sen–Thiel slopes of alkalinity increases and agricultural lime usage indicated that agricultural lime contributed to increasing solute concentration in some areas. However, several stations including the Altamaha, Upper Mississippi, and San Joaquin Rivers exhibited solute trends, such as increasing cation:alkalinity ratios and increasing nitrate + sulfate, more consistent with increasing acidity, emphasizing that multiple processes affect alkalinity trends in large rivers. This study was unique in its examination of alkalinity trends in large rivers covering a wide range of climate and land use types, but more detailed analyses will help to better elucidate temporal changes to river solutes and especially the effects they may have on coastal calcium carbonate saturation state.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Long-term trends in alkalinity in large rivers of the conterminous US in relation to acidification, agriculture, and hydrologic modification|
|Series title||Science of the Total Environment|
|Contributing office(s)||National Research Program - Central Branch|
|Online Only (Y/N)||N|
|Additional Online Files (Y/N)||N|