The hydrochemistry of high-elevation lakes in the Georgia Basin, British Columbia


High-elevation lakes are sensitive to acidification from atmospheric deposition owing to their generally small catchment areas, thin soils and low bedrock weathering rates. The Georgia Basin, southwest British Columbia, Canada, receives atmospheric inputs from emissions originating in Vancouver, Victoria, and from marine traffic in the Strait of Georgia. There is growing concern on the influence of this air pollution on high-elevation systems in the region. Water chemistry and catchment characteristics were used to assess the sensitivity of 72 lakes in the Georgia Basin to acidic deposition. Twenty percent of the study lakes had pH levels less than 6, and acid neutralising capacity (ANC) concentrations below 20 μeq L–1, which are key thresholds for biological sustainability. Base cation and trace metal concentrations were low, typical of the dilute nature of high-elevation lakes (median conductivity = 7.0 μS cm–1). Nonetheless, concentrations of trace metals (such as lead) decreased with distance from major cities. The primary factors influencing the pH and ANC of surface waters were investigated using multiple linear regression; both ANC and pH were related to longitude and the proportion of the catchment dominated by ice and glaciers. Increasing sulphur deposition resulted in decreasing pH. The median critical load of acidity (sulphur) for the study lakes was approximately 70 meq m–2 y–1; 18% of the lakes received sulphur deposition (range: 6-81 meq m–2 y–1 for the period 2005-2006) in excess of their critical load.



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acidification, sulphur and nitrogen deposition, long-range transboundary air pollution, acid neutralising capacity, critical loads, Canada
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How to Cite
STRANG D, AHERNE J, SHAW PD. The hydrochemistry of high-elevation lakes in the Georgia Basin, British Columbia. J Limnol [Internet]. 2010Aug.1 [cited 2021Jan.16];69(s1):56-. Available from:

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