Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Virginia Brook Trout Streams Mostly Recovering From Acid Deposition

09.11.2011
Virginia's brook trout streams are showing encouraging signs of recovery – in most cases – from the debilitating effects of acid rain, according to the most recent results from a long-term study led by University of Virginia environmental scientists.

"This is good news and real evidence for the value of our national investment in improving air quality," said Rick Webb, a U.Va. environmental scientist in the College of Arts & Sciences and coordinator of the Virginia Trout Stream Sensitivity Study. "At the same time, there is more to be done, and many Virginia brook trout streams may never fully recover."

U.Va., with the support of the conservation organization Trout Unlimited and several state and federal agencies, has been studying the health of Virginia's remote mountain streams since initiating a large-scale survey in 1987. Another such survey was conducted in 2000, and again in the spring of 2010. Quarterly sampling of stream water chemistry also is conducted in 66 streams and regularly in Shenandoah National Park.

The study demonstrates a clear improvement in water quality between the 2000 and 2010 surveys. Little improvement was noted between the 1987 and 2000 surveys. Webb attributes this to a delayed effect of streams' ability to purge acidification that has settled for years into surrounding soils and that continues to leach into streams.

Janet Miller, a graduate student in environmental sciences who analyzed survey data, found that 77 percent of the sampled streams in 2010 were suitable for brook trout reproduction. The 1987 and 2000 surveys showed that only 55 percent and 56 percent, respectively, were suitable for brook trout reproduction.

Webb attributes the improvement to the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 that imposed strict regulations on emissions from coal-fired power plants, as well as improvements to technologies that reduce emissions from power plants, automobiles and other machinery.

Between 1990 and 2009, sulfur dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants declined by 64 percent. Dominion Virginia Power, as a notable example, removes 95 percent of the sulfur dioxide emissions from its largest coal-fired power plant, located at Mount Storm, W.Va., which is upwind of Virginia's mountains and Shenandoah National Park.

Organizers plan to continue long-term monitoring by conducting surveys every 10 years, and have launched a $500,000 fundraising campaign to support the ongoing studies. They emphasize the importance of maintaining such long-term research on trout streams in Virginia – not only for monitoring their recovery from acid rain, but also for understanding the potential effects climate change and other man-made disturbances.

The Virginia Trout Stream Sensitivity Study is one of the nation's largest and most comprehensive long-term stream chemistry surveys. It is designed to track the effects of acidic deposition (often called acid rain) and other factors affecting water quality and related ecological conditions in Virginia's native trout streams.

The brook trout is the only native trout in Virginia and the eastern United States. The fish require clean water to propagate and are highly susceptible to acidity deposited to the water from pollution in the air. Brook trout, and the generally pristine and remote streams they inhabit, are considered indicators of the overall health of the environment.

In the study, water samples are analyzed for sulfate levels and a stream's natural ability to neutralize acidity. The researchers are finding that sulfate levels are dropping in most streams, indicating that air pollution reductions are having a positive effect on the environment. Due to prevailing winds that carry pollution from coal-burning power plants – primarily sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides – many mountain streams and forests in Virginia and throughout the Southeast have suffered long-term damage.

A given stream's level of susceptibility to acidification is affected by its bedrock composition and the chemistry of nearby soils. Streams with sandstone or quartzite bedrock – about one-third to one-half of the native trout watersheds in Virginia – are most vulnerable to acid deposition because they do not neutralize acid even years after pollution has been reduced.

During the 2010 survey, 165 volunteers, mostly from Trout Unlimited and some government agencies, sampled 384 streams, which, together with the program's 66 routinely sampled streams, represent about 80 percent of the forested mountain headwater streams in the state that contain reproducing brook trout.

"Through the years this has continued to be a team effort between U.Va. scientists, Trout Unlimited and the U.S. Park and Forest services, the EPA and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries," said Jack Cosby, an environmental scientist who co-directs the stream study effort. "We've even received a lab equipment grant from the Dominion Foundation. The cooperation between entities that might sometimes seem to be at odds has been inspiring."

Data from the survey helps scientists determine the health of headwater streams throughout western Virginia. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other federal and state agencies use such data to inform resource management and to develop, evaluate and recommend national air pollution control policies.

"It's a cause for hope that so many people share a determination to protect and preserve out brook trout streams and the natural world they represent," Webb noted. "The remarkable volunteer contribution to the trout stream surveys over more than two decades is a real testament to this determination."

Fariss Samarrai | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.virginia.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

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: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Speed data for the brain’s navigation system

06.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

What happens in the cell nucleus after fertilization

06.12.2016 | Life Sciences

IHP presents the fastest silicon-based transistor in the world

05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>