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

Climate change as a confounding factor in reversibility of acidification: RAIN and CLIMEX projects

R. F. Wright and A. Jenkins

Abstract. The RAIN and CLIMEX experiments at Risdalsheia, southernmost Norway, together cover 17 years (1984-2000) of whole-catchment manipulation of acid deposition and climate. A 1200 m2 roof placed over the forest canopy at KIM catchment excluded about 80% of ambient acid deposition; clean rain was sprinkled under the roof. A climate change treatment (3.7°C increase in air temperature and increase in air carbon dioxide concentrations to 560 ppmv) was superimposed on the clean rain treatment for four years (1995-1998). Sea-salt inputs and temperature are climate-related factors that influence water chemistry and can confound long-term trends caused by changes in deposition of sulphur and nitrogen. The RAIN and CLIMEX experiments at Risdalsheia provided direct experimental data that allow quantitative assessment of these factors. Run-off chemistry responded rapidly to the decreased acid deposition. Sulphate concentrations decreased by 50% within three years; nitrate and ammonium concentrations decreased to new steady-state levels within the first year. Acid neutralising capacity increased and hydrogen ion and inorganic aluminium decreased. Similar recovery from acidification was also observed at the reference catchment, ROLF, in response to the general 50% reduction in sulphate deposition over southern Norway in the late 1980s and 1990s. Variations in sea-salt deposition caused large variations in run-off chemistry at the reference catchment ROLF and the year-to-year noise in acid neutralising capacity was as large as the overall trend over the period. These variations were absent at KIM catchment because the sea-salt inputs were held constant over the entire 17 years of the clean rain treatment. The climate change experiment at KIM catchment resulted in increased leaching of inorganic nitrogen, probably due to increased mineralisation and nitrification rates in the soils.

Keywords: acid deposition, global change, water, soil, catchment, experiment, Norway.