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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2003

Modeling surface water critical loads with PROFILE: Possibilities and challenges

Rapp L, Bishop K


The critical load concept has become a valuable tool for policymakers in the European negotiations on emission reductions. Despite the international acceptance, ongoing validation of critical load methodology is of the utmost importance to avoid a situation where the calculation results are difficult to defend. In this paper we explore the potential of using the steady state soil chemistry model PROFILE as an alternative to the Steady State Water Chemistry (SSWC) method for calculating critical loads of acidity. The hypothesis is that the uncertainty in prediction of preindustrial leaching of base cations is reduced when soil properties instead of lake chemistry are used as input data. Paleolimnological reconstructions of preindustrial lake chemistry are used to test PROFILE. As PROFILE requires soil data that are not generally available on a catchment level, we used distributions of crucial parameters from soil survey data within the vicinity of five lakes for which paleoecological pH reconstructions were available. An important concern is the characterization of catchment hydrology. A calibration of the "effective" soil depth, needed to give PROFILE predictions that coincided with paleolimnology, suggested that approximately 0.6 m of the total soil depth was hydrologically active in supplying acid neutralizing capacity (ANC) to runoff through weathering. At present, there is insufficient evidence to either recommend or reject the PROFILE model for surface water critical loads. Before such a judgement can be made, the approach presented here has to be tested for other regions, and the definition of catchment hydrology needs to be investigated further

Published in

Journal of Environmental Quality
2003, Volume: 32, number: 6, pages: 2290-2300