Articles | Volume 2, issue 4
Special issue:
31 Dec 1998
31 Dec 1998

A comparison of methods for estimating soil characteristics in regional acidification models; an application of the MAGIC model to Scotland

R. C. Helliwell, R. C. Ferrier, C. D. Evans, and A. Jenkins

Abstract. The results from an application of MAGIC (Model of Acidification of Groundwater In Catchments) to 733 Scottish catchments are presented. The availability of representative, good quality soil data is frequently limiting factor for biogeochemical modelling, particularly those involving modelling at various spatial scales. This study tests the sensitivity of MAGIC to soil input data derived from two different methodologies; the "nearest neighbour method" considers the closest representative soil profile to a catchment, and the "spatial weighting method" of all soil types identified in a catchment, based on a soil physico-chemical classification of Scotland. Soil data (soil depth, density, cation exchange capacity and base saturation) calculated using the "nearest neighbour method" and the "spatial weighting method" were highly variable, although the range of upper and lower limits were greater for soil data produced using the nearest neighbour method. In contrast to the predominantly organic soil data calculated by the nearest neighbour method, the spatially weighted soil parameters included a greater proportion of mineral soils. With regard to simulated surface water Acid Neutralising Capacity (ANC) for 1851, 1997 and 2050, MAGIC predictions were similar irrespective of the methodology used to determine soil input parameters. However, soil input data derived from both methods resulted in variable base saturation predictions. It is concluded that the "nearest neighbour" methodology is most appropriate if the objective is to determine the predicted response of the most acid- sensitive sites within a region in line with the approach used in Critical Laod mapping. On the other hand, "spatial weighting" integrates catchment soils and represents a more robust methodology by which to determine changes in median soil and water response in a regional context. The anticipated reductions in S emissions associated with the Second S Protocol are predicted to have a marginal beneficial effect on the recovery of soils and surface waters of Scotland.

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