Articles | Volume 5, issue 1
31 Mar 2001
31 Mar 2001

A hydrochemical modelling framework for combined assessment of spatial and temporal variability in stream chemistry: application to Plynlimon, Wales

H.J. Foster, M.J. Lees, H.S. Wheater, C. Neal, and B. Reynolds

Abstract. Recent concern about the risk to biota from acidification in upland areas, due to air pollution and land-use change (such as the planting of coniferous forests), has generated a need to model catchment hydro-chemistry to assess environmental risk and define protection strategies. Previous approaches have tended to concentrate on quantifying either spatial variability at a regional scale or temporal variability at a given location. However, to protect biota from ‘acid episodes’, an assessment of both temporal and spatial variability of stream chemistry is required at a catchment scale. In addition, quantification of temporal variability needs to represent both episodic event response and long term variability caused by deposition and/or land-use change. Both spatial and temporal variability in streamwater chemistry are considered in a new modelling methodology based on application to the Plynlimon catchments, central Wales. A two-component End-Member Mixing Analysis (EMMA) is used whereby low and high flow chemistry are taken to represent ‘groundwater’ and ‘soil water’ end-members. The conventional EMMA method is extended to incorporate spatial variability in the two end-members across the catchments by quantifying the Acid Neutralisation Capacity (ANC) of each in terms of a statistical distribution. These are then input as stochastic variables to a two-component mixing model, thereby accounting for variability of ANC both spatially and temporally. The model is coupled to a long-term acidification model (MAGIC) to predict the evolution of the end members and, hence, the response to future scenarios. The results can be plotted as a function of time and space, which enables better assessment of the likely effects of pollution deposition or land-use changes in the future on the stream chemistry than current methods which use catchment average values. The model is also a useful basis for further research into linkage between hydrochemistry and intra-catchment biological diversity.

Keywords: hydrochemistry, End-Member Mixing Analysis (EMMA), uplands, acidification