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Air pollutant contamination and acidification of surface waters in the North York Moors, UK: Multi-proxy evidence from the sediments of a moorland pool

Battarbee, RW; Turner, S; Yang, H; Rose, NL; Smyntek, PM; Reimer, PJ; Oldfield, F; ... Blaauw, M; + view all (2015) Air pollutant contamination and acidification of surface waters in the North York Moors, UK: Multi-proxy evidence from the sediments of a moorland pool. Holocene , 25 (1) 226 - 237. 10.1177/0959683614556380. Green open access

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Abstract

Despite the extensive geographical range of palaeolimnological studies designed to assess the extent of surface water acidification in the United Kingdom during the 1980s, little attention was paid to the status of surface waters in the North York Moors (NYM). In this paper, we present sediment core data from a moorland pool in the NYM that provide a record of air pollution contamination and surface water acidification. The 41-cm-long core was divided into three lithostratigraphic units. The lower two comprise peaty soils and peats, respectively, that date to between approximately 8080 and 6740 cal. BP. The uppermost unit comprises peaty lake muds dating from between approximately ad 1790 and the present day (ad 2006). The lower two units contain pollen dominated by forest taxa, whereas the uppermost unit contains pollen indicative of open landscape conditions similar to those of the present. Heavy metal, spheroidal carbonaceous particle, mineral magnetics and stable isotope analysis of the upper sediments show clear evidence of contamination by air pollutants derived from fossil-fuel combustion over the last c. 150 years, and diatom analysis indicates that the naturally acidic pool became more acidic during the 20th century. We conclude that the exceptionally acidic surface waters of the pool at present (pH = c. 4.1) are the result of a long history of air pollution and not because of naturally acidic local conditions. We argue that the highly acidic surface waters elsewhere in the NYM are similarly acidified and that the lack of evidence of significant recovery from acidification, despite major reductions in the emissions of acidic gases that have taken place over the last c. 30 years, indicates the continuing influence of pollutant sulphur stored in catchment peats, a legacy of over 150 years of acid deposition.

Type: Article
Title: Air pollutant contamination and acidification of surface waters in the North York Moors, UK: Multi-proxy evidence from the sediments of a moorland pool
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/0959683614556380
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0959683614556380
Language: English
Additional information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (http://www.uk.sagepub.com/aboutus/openaccess.htm).
Keywords: Air pollution, diatom analysis, geochemistry, magnetic measurements, North York Moors, pollen analysis, spheroidal carbonaceous particles, stable isotopes, surface water acidification
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Geography
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1460113
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