Aluminum toxicity risk reduction as a result of reduced acid deposition in Adirondack lakes and ponds

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In 1990, the US Congress amended the Clean Air Act (CAA) to reduce regional-scale ecosystem degradation from SOx and NOx emissions which have been responsible for acid deposition in regions such as the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. An ecosystem assessment project was conducted from 1994 to 2012 by the Darrin Fresh Water Institute to determine the effect of these emission reduction policies on aquatic systems. The project investigated water chemistry and biota in 30 Adirondack lakes and ponded waters. Although regulatory changes made in response to the 1990 CAA amendments resulted in a reduction of acid deposition within the Adirondacks, the ecosystem response to these reductions is complicated. A statistical analysis of SO4, pH, Al, and DOC data collected during this project demonstrates positive change in response to decreased deposition. The changes in water chemistry also have lowered the risk of Al toxicity to brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis [Mitchill]), which allowed the re-introduction of this species to Brooktrout Lake from which it had been extirpated. However, pH and labile aluminum (Alim) fluctuate and are not strongly correlated to changes in acid deposition. As such, toxicity to S. fontinalis also is cyclic and provides rationale for the difficulties inherent in re-establishing resident populations in impacted aquatic environments. Overall, aquatic ecosystems of the Adirondacks show a positive response to reduced deposition driven by changes in environmental policy, but the response is more complex and indicates an ecosystem-wide interaction between aquatic and watershed components of the ecosystem.

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Environmental Monitoring and Assessment



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