Water Chemistry and Fish Community Responses to Episodic Stream Acidification in Pennsylvania, USA

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Biological Sciences


Five streams were studied on the Northern Appalachian Plateau of Pennsylvania from October 1988 through June 1989 to determine chemical changes that occur during episodic storm run-off and the responses of fish to these events. These second-order streams flowed through undisturbed, wooded, sandstone bedrock catchments with surface areas ranging from 500 to 1000 hectares. Median pH of precipitations was about 4·2, and among streams it ranged from 5·0 to 6·2. During storm events, pH declined by as much as 1·2 units and peak concentrations of total monomeric Al ranged from less than 0·01 to 0·75 mg litre-1. Organically bound A1 was generally a minor component of total monomeric A1. Wild brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) were found in all streams, although only a remnant population existed in the most acidic stream. Sculpins (Cottus bairdi or C. cognatus) were collected only in the two streams with the least severe episodes. Mortality of brook trout and sculpins in in situ bioassays ranged from 0 to about 80% among streams during acidic episodes and was positively related to concentrations of total dissolved Al. Radio-tagged brook trout moved downstream during episodes when Al reached toxic concentrations. Some displaced trout were found near groundwater seeps, where pH was higher and dissolved Al was lower than in the main channel. © 1992.



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Environmental Pollution


At the time of publication, Charles J. Gagen was affiliated with Pennsylvania State University.

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