Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Response of water chemistry and young-of-year brook trout to channel and watershed liming in streams showing lagging recovery from acidic deposition

June 18, 2019

Reductions in sulfur emissions have initiated chemical recovery of surface waters impacted by acidic deposition in the Adirondack region of New York State. However, acidified streams remain common in the region, which limits recovery of brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) populations. To investigate liming as a method to accelerate recovery of brook trout, the channels of two acidified streams were limed annually from 2012 to 2015, and an entire watershed of a third acidified tributary was limed by helicopter in 2013. Stream flow, water chemistry, and density of young-of-year (YOY) brook trout were measured in limed streams, an untreated acidified stream, and a buffered reference stream. Lime additions increased pH and acid-neutralizing capacity and decreased inorganic monomeric aluminum concentrations to less than 2.0 μmol/L, the minimum concentration at which in situ brook trout mortality has been documented. However, of the two channel-limed streams, only stream T8 showed a significant response (P < 0.01) in YOY density, increasing from a mean of 0.4 fish/m2 before liming to 2.7 fish/m2 after liming. No YOY brook trout response was observed in the stream within the limed watershed. Groundwater inputs to streams were identified by relative differences in temperature and concentrations of silica and sodium. YOY brook trout densities increased only in the channel-limed stream (T8) with suitable groundwater inputs for fall spawning and a summer nursery. Results suggest that targeted liming of acidified streams with the necessary groundwater habitat could be beneficial in accelerating recovery of brook trout populations.