Assessment of critical loads of acidity for selected U.K. upland organic soils
The use of critical loads of acidity to quantify damage to sensitive components of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems has developed rapidly over the last decade. While much work has focused on defining damage to forested ecosystems, surface waters and groundwaters, there has been little work done on defining critical loads of acidity for ombrotrophic and minerotrophic peat. This thesis presents a modelling approach to quantify damage to ombrotrophic peat ecosystems, since such damage can result in a decline in both surface water quality and the ability of peat to act as an absorbent to aerial pollutants. Initial investigations were concerned with the factors which could be included in investigations of critical loads of N and acidity to the surface organic horizons of forest and moorland soils. The modelling approach was then developed from a series of laboratory-based simulation experiments to investigate the effect of contents of H&'43 , Ca2&'43 and Mg2&'43 in rainfall upon the chemistry of the peat ion exchange complex. The basic tenet of the modelling approach was that ion exchange equilibria for peat is rapid, mineral input to the surface of ombrotrophic peat from mineral weathering is negligible and that atmospheric inputs of wet and dry deposition will dominate the peat chemistry. These simulation experiments provided peat pH values resulting from equilibration with the simulated rainfall. By combining these with databases of atmospheric depositon for the U.K., critical loads of acidity and the present day peat pH were calculated and mapped. The critical load values for peat thus obtained were incorporated in the U.K. Critical Load mapping program, which was used to support the on-going European negotiations of emission reduction within the United Nations Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (U.N. E.C.E. C.L.T.A.P.).