American Society of Civil Engineers


Response of Soil Water Chemistry to Simulated Changes in Acid Deposition in the Great Smoky Mountains


by Meijun Cai, (Post Doctorate Research Associate, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996), Amy M. Johnson, (Assistant Professor, Dept. of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996), John S. Schwartz, P.E., (corresponding author), F.ASCE, (Associate Professor, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996 E-mail: jschwar@utk.edu), Stephen E. Moore, (Supervisory Fishery Biologist, U.S. Dept. of Interior, National Park Service, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, TN, 37738), and Matt A. Kulp, (Fishery Biologist, U.S. Dept. of Interior, National Park Service, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, TN, 37738)

Journal of Environmental Engineering, Vol. 137, No. 7, July 2011, pp. 617-628, (doi:  http://dx.doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)EE.1943-7870.0000354)

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Document type: Journal Paper
Abstract: Watershed recovery from acidic deposition, such as the Noland Divide Watershed in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is difficult to predict because of complex biogeochemical processes exhibited in soils. Laboratory soil columns and in situ pan lysimeters were used to investigate soil solution response to simulated reductions in acid deposition. Controlling for influent SO42-, NO3-, and NH4+ concentrations in the column experiments, effluent pH declined similarly to 4.4 among five experimental scenarios from an initial pH of approximately 4.7 and 6.1. Influent-effluent chemical comparisons suggest nitrification and/or SO42- desorption controls effluent pH. Sulfate adsorption occurred when SO42- influent was greater than 25 μ mol L-1 and desorption occurred below 15 μ mol L-1, which would equate to approximately a 61% reduction in current SO42- deposition levels. Base cation depletion occurred in column experiments, in which 64–60 μ mol L-1 Ca2+ and 24–27 μ mol L-1 Mg2+ reductions were measured. Cation depletion rates were pH dependent, primarily caused by soil cation exchange and not weathering. In these soils with base saturation below 7%, complete Ca2+ and Mg2+ depletion was estimated as 90 to 140 years. Protons released by SO42- desorption via ligand exchange are expected to cause further base cation depletion, thereby delaying watershed recovery. Field experiments found SO42- sorption dynamics to be limited by kinetics and hydrologic interflow rates, illustrating how precipitation intensity can influence ion transport from soil to stream. Results from this study provide important information for predicting watershed recovery in the future and suggest needs for further research.


ASCE Subject Headings:
Acid rain
Acids
Cations
Chemical properties
Flow rates
Leaching
Soil analysis
Soil water
Watersheds
United States

Author Keywords:
Acid rain
Acids
Cations
Chemical properties
Flow rate
Leaching
Soil analysis
Soil water