Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)

Research article2010Peer reviewed

Sensitivity of pH in a boreal stream network to a potential decrease in base cations caused by forest harvest

Agren, Anneli; Buffam, Ishi; Bishop, Kevin; Laudon, Hjalmar


Increased forest harvest with more whole-tree utilization can decrease base cations (BC) in soils and stream runoff. This paper analyses how reducing stream BC changes the capacity of a boreal stream network to buffer pH changes. We estimated change in stream pH during spring snowmelt in 60 locations throughout a 68 km2 boreal catchment in northern Sweden with different scenarios of BC removal from stream water ranging from 10 to 50 mequiv. .L(-1). The pH decreased in all scenarios, and if BC decreased by 50 mequiv. .L(-1), stream length with pH above the acid threshold pH 5 during spring snowmelt decreased from 82% to 44% of the stream network, whereas the stream length with pH above 5.5 decreased from 60% to 10%. The pH sensitivity of different stream reaches to reductions in BC was positively related to the slope of the catchment, forest cover, and forested mires, whereas it was negatively related to the percentage of agricultural fields. Because the long-term effect of different forestry practices on stream BC is unclear, there is all the more reason to evaluate BC sensitivity before, rather than after, eventual problems arise.

Published in

Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
2010, Volume: 67, number: 7, pages: 1116-1125