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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-438
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-438
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 28 Oct 2019

Submitted as: research article | 28 Oct 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Ionic aluminium concentrations exceed thresholds for aquatic health in Nova Scotian rivers

Shannon Sterling1, Sarah MacLeod2, Lobke Rotteveel1, Kristin Hart1, Thomas A. Clair1, and Edmund A. Halfyard3 Shannon Sterling et al.
  • 1Sterling Hydrology Research Group, Department of Earth Sciences, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • 2Coastal Action, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • 3Nova Scotia Salmon Association, Chester, Nova Scotia, Canada

Abstract. Cationic aluminium species are toxic to terrestrial and aquatic life. Despite decades of acid emission reductions, accumulating evidence shows that freshwater acidification recovery is delayed in locations such as Nova Scotia, Canada. Further, spatial and temporal patterns of labile cationic forms of aluminium (Ali) remain poorly understood. Here we increase our understanding of Ali spatial and temporal patterns by measuring Ali concentrations in ten streams in acid-sensitive areas of Nova Scotia over a four-year time period. We observe widespread and frequent occurrences of Ali concentrations that exceed toxic thresholds (> 15 μg L−1). Ali patterns appear to be driven by known Ali drivers – pH, dissolved organic carbon, dissolved aluminium, and calcium – but the dominant driver and temporal patterns vary by catchment. Our results demonstrate that elevated Ali remains a threat to aquatic ecosystems. For example, our observed Ali concentrations are potentially harmful to the biologically, economically, and culturally significant Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar).

Shannon Sterling et al.
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Shannon Sterling et al.
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Short summary
Wild salmon numbers in Nova Scotia Canada have been plummeting in recent decades. In 2014 we launched an ionic aluminum monitoring program in Nova Scotia to see if this toxic element was a threat to salmon populations. We found that all ten monitored rivers had ionic aluminum concentrations that exceeded the threshold for aquatic health. Our results demonstrate that elevated aluminum still threatens aquatic ecosystems and that delays in recovery from acid rain remains a critical issue.
Wild salmon numbers in Nova Scotia Canada have been plummeting in recent decades. In 2014 we...
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