Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A treatment, not a cure: Calcium silicate neutralizes an acidic stream

05.10.2004


As a result of fossil fuel emissions, many freshwater bodies in eastern North America have become acidified. When combusted, fossil fuels release sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, the precursors to acid precipitation, into the atmosphere. Persistent exposure to these pollutants, which return to Earth in rain, snow, sleet, hail and fog, can compromise the health of aquatic ecosystems.



In a recent Restoration Ecology paper, Institute of Ecosystem Studies President and Director Dr. Gene E. Likens, with colleagues, explores a new approach to restoring acidified streams, the addition of calcium silicate. The paper is the first to document the neutralizing effects of Wollastonite, a calcium silicate, on an acidic stream.

The research was performed at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Likens, who discovered acid rain at Hubbard Brook in the 1960s, has been investigating human-accelerated environmental change there for over four decades. A network of researchers and agencies, including over 70 scientists, has made the 3,160-hectare forest one of the most intensively studied watersheds in the world.


"Years of monitoring have documented that Hubbard Brook receives high levels of acid precipitation from emissions largely originating at Midwestern utility plants, as a result many streams on the site are acidic." Likens comments. Adding that, "The only way to successfully combat stream acidity is through improved air quality. Until that happens, we are exploring short-term methods of restoring water quality to sensitive sites."

Symptoms of acidified streams include a drop in pH, calcium, and dissolved inorganic carbon and an increase in metals like aluminum. When pH-levels decline, a stream is said to have lost its acid neutralizing capacity (ANC). Aquatic and semi-aquatic animals, such as fish and salamanders, are more prone to stress and disease when exposed to acidity and heavy metals.

As a remedy for acid stomach, people reach for Tums, or a similar calcium-based acid reducer. When attempting to increase pH-levels in acidic streams, scientists have historically used various forms of limestone, a natural source of calcium carbonate. Its neutralizing effects are short-lived, however, and can generate extreme fluctuations in water chemistry. Recognizing the limitations of limestone, Likens and colleagues looked to another material to neutralize an acidified stream at Hubbard Brook-- Wollastonite.

Over one hundred and thirty pounds (61kg) of this naturally occurring calcium silicate mineral, mined from the Adirondacks and manufactured into a pellet form, was manually applied to the study stream. Pellets were added to 50-meters of the 910-meter stream, including the stream channel and adjacent stream bank. Researchers took extensive measurements of water attributes, such as pH and acid neutralizing capacity, before, during and after the application.

Despite the small treatment area, the buffering effects of the Wollastonite were long lasting. By adding the pellets to 5.5% of the stream, acidity was suppressed for over four months. It is likely that a larger addition would have resulted in a longer neutralizing effect. Wollastonite degraded slowly in the system; as a result water chemistry fluctuations were smaller than seen during limestone additions.

While the study’s findings are useful to land managers looking for new methods of temporarily neutralizing acid streams, Likens is quick to comment that, "Manually adding buffering agents to acidic streams will never solve the acid rain problem. At most, it is a way to buy time until the real solution emerges-- a reduction in air pollution."

He goes on to warn that, "Viewing calcium applications as a prescriptive cure for acid rain is like a runner viewing steroids as a cure for a bad knee. At the end of the race, when the steroids have worn off, the runner is left limping. Calcium additions, which are cost and labor-intensive, temporarily mask symptoms. They don’t alleviate underlying causes, they are not feasible on a landscape scale and they will not protect our nation’s freshwater resources."

The Wollastonite stream application was part of a larger watershed-level addition. To learn more about how calcium silicate impacted forests and wetlands, visit an overview on the Hubbard Brook website: http://www.hubbardbrook.org/yale/watersheds/w1/

The following coauthors were integral in conducting the Wollastonite addition research and preparing the Restoration Ecology paper. Several were IES graduate students when they participated in the project (*).

Don Buso, Institute of Ecosystem Studies
*Brian K. Dresser
*Emily S. Bernhardt, University of Maryland
Robert O. Hall, Jr., University ot Wyoming
*Kate H. Macneale, Northwest Fisheries Science Center
Scott W. Bailey, USDA Forest Service

Lori Quillen | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ecostudies.org

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Calculating recharge of groundwater more precisely
28.02.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Bioinvasion on the rise
15.02.2017 | Universität Konstanz

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Safe glide at total engine failure with ELA-inside

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded after a glide flight with an Airbus A320 in ditching on the Hudson River. All 155 people on board were saved.

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded...

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New technology offers fast peptide synthesis

28.02.2017 | Life Sciences

WSU research advances energy savings for oil, gas industries

28.02.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Who can find the fish that makes the best sound?

28.02.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>