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Sci Total Environ. 2013 Jan 15;443:267-77. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012.10.068. Epub 2012 Nov 28.

Experimental acidification of two biogeochemically-distinct neotropical streams: buffering mechanisms and macroinvertebrate drift.

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  • 1Department of Biology and North Carolina Center for Biodiversity, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC 27858, USA. ardonsayaom@ecu.edu

Abstract

Research into the buffering mechanisms and ecological consequences of acidification in tropical streams is lacking. We have documented seasonal and episodic acidification events in streams draining La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica. Across this forested landscape, the severity in seasonal and episodic acidification events varies due to interbasin groundwater flow (IGF). Streams that receive IGF have higher concentrations of solutes and more stable pH (~6) than streams that do not receive IGF (pH ~5). To examine the buffering capacity and vulnerability of macroinvertebrates to short-term acidification events, we added hydrochloric acid to acidify a low-solute, poorly buffered (without IGF) and a high-solute, well buffered stream (with IGF). We hypothesized that: 1) protonation of bicarbonate (HCO(3)(-)) would neutralize most of the acid added in the high-solute stream, while base cation release from the sediments would be the most important buffering mechanism in the low-solute stream; 2) pH declines would mobilize inorganic aluminum (Ali) from sediments in both streams; and 3) pH declines would increase macroinvertebrate drift in both streams. We found that the high-solute stream neutralized 745 μeq/L (96% of the acid added), while the solute poor stream only neutralized 27.4 μeq/L (40%). Protonation of HCO(3)(-) was an important buffering mechanism in both streams. Base cation, Fe(2+), and Ali release from sediments and protonation of organic acids also provided buffering in the low-solute stream. We measured low concentrations of Ali release in both streams (2-9 μeq/L) in response to acidification, but the low-solute stream released double the amount Ali per 100 μeq of acid added than the high solute stream. Macroinvertebrate drift increased in both streams in response to acidification and was dominated by Ephemeroptera and Chironomidae. Our results elucidate the different buffering mechanisms in tropical streams and suggest that low-solute poorly buffered streams might be particularly vulnerable to episodic acidification.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

PMID:
23201647
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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