Articles | Volume 5, issue 3
30 Sep 2001
30 Sep 2001

Land use influences on acidification and recovery of freshwaters in Galloway, south-west Scotland

R. C. Helliwell, R. C. Ferrier, L. Johnston, J. Goodwin, and R. Doughty

Abstract. The long term response of surface waters to changes in sulphur deposition and afforestation is investigated for three upland river systems in the Galloway region of south-west Scotland. From 1984-1999, these rivers exhibited a statistically significant decline in non-marine sulphate concentrations in response to reduced acid deposition. This reduction in non-marine sulphate was, however, insufficient to induce a pH recovery over the period. A statistically significant increase in river pH was observed between 1956-1970 (0.05 yr-1) when subsidised agricultural lime payments were at a maximum. In 1976, this subsidy ceased and surface waters have progressively acidified. In addition, climatic change is found to influence long-term trends in pH. Mean annual pH was greatest during a dry period between 1969-1973 when total annual discharge was low. Thereafter, pH declined gradually in response to higher rainfall and increased total annual discharge. Overall, surface waters draining the afforested catchments of the Rivers Cree and Bladnoch are more acid than those draining the moorland catchment of the Luce. These results indicate that in afforested catchments, current reductions in sulphur emissions have not led to an observed improvement in the acid status of surface waters. Forestry, therefore, represents a confounding factor with regard to chemical recovery from acidification in this region.

Keywords: acidification, afforestation, deposition, rivers, lochs, non-marine sulphate, pH