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Biogeochemical impacts of clearfelling and reforestation on blanket-peatland streams: II. major ions and dissolved organic carbon

Cummins, T., Farrell, Edward P.
Forest ecology and management 2003 v.180 no.1-3 pp. 557–570
absorbance, alkalinity, aluminum, ammonium nitrogen, anions, calcium, dissolved organic carbon, ecosystems, felling, forests, manganese, nutrients, pH, phosphorus, potassium, reforestation, sodium, streams, summer, titration, watersheds, Ireland
Streams and drains in blanket-peatland forest in western Ireland were sampled weekly over 5 years, 1996–2000, using continuous, depth-proportional passive sampling. Analysis was for pH, alkalinity by Gran titration, anions by IC, metals by ICP, aluminium speciation by loaded-resin exchange, and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) by absorbance at 320 nm. Effects of felling are identified graphically from two forest drains whose catchments (both about 1 ha) were clearfelled, and partial clearfelling of one larger catchment (somewhat over 1 km2), in summer 1999. Calcium concentrations and alkalinity were increased in the drain- and streamwater from the felled areas. The pH was increased in drains, while in the larger stream, pH range decreased while the mean increased. Phosphorus increased markedly with clearfell, in the absence of recent fertilising, and also increased with fertilising; these results are reported in an accompanying paper. Ammonium-nitrogen concentrations were increased in the two drains with felling, and temporarily decreased in the larger stream. Nitrate increased in some cases. Potassium and manganese concentrations also increased. Concentrations of DOC and organic monomeric aluminium increased gradually, subject to a continuing strong annual cycle. There were no clearfelling effects on concentrations of solphate, suspended solids or inorganic monomeric aluminium. In the two drains (fully clearfelled), concentrations of sodium, chloride and magnesium, and conductivity, were all reduced after felling. Fertilising effects other than for phosphorus were indistinct. Effects of the combined clearfell–reforestation treatment were testable statistically, using randomised intervention analysis, between two larger streams (1 km2) as a treatment–control comparison. There were statistically significant positive responses in streamwater concentrations of nitrate, potassium, calcium, DOC and aluminium fractions. The implications for management practice depend on whether the loss of nutrients is sustainable for future crop productivity, and whether critical limits and loads of receiving ecosystems are exceeded.