Critical loads for soils and freshwaters; a comparison methods at the Plynlimon catchments
Abstract. International agreements aimed at reducing sulphur deposition from the atmosphere are now focused on the "critical loads" concept. This provides a distributed link between sources and receptors of acidic oxides and also links the level of reduction with biological recovery. Methods for calculating critical loads include simple classification (Level 0), mass-balance equilibrium models (Level 1) and dynamic hydrochemical models (Level 2). Here, examples of each method are applied to headwater catchments in Plynlimon, mid-Wales. The critical loads derived are compared and the utility of the critical loads concept as a tool for local pollution control and land management is assessed.
Differences in critical load methods for soils result from assumptions regarding biological receptors. Surface water critical loads are generally similar under all methods. As a local management tool, the dynamic model is most appropriate although it has a high data requirement. The utility of other methods depends upon detailed maps of soil and vegetation being available at an appropriate scale.