'Hindered, stubborn or confused: why is the biological recovery of acidified fresh waters so patchy?'

NG08 - School of Biosciences – R27 on the Edgbaston Campus map
Lectures Talks and Workshops, Life and Environmental Sciences, Research
Wednesday 9th March 2016 (16:00-17:00)
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Part of the School Seminar Series

Speaker: Professor Alan Hildrew, Queen Mary University of London

Host: Professor Sandy Milner

Abstract: Deposition of strongly acidic pollutants, which in the UK began around two centuries ago, is one of the largest-scale geochemical and ecological experiments ever brought about by human activity. Acidic deposition in Europe and North America has declined radically over the past three decades, and the chemistry of surface waters has responded approximately as expected, with declining mean sulphate and aluminium concentrations and rising pH in many sites. Biological recovery has been much slower and less consistent than anticipated, however. Is this non-recovery simply to be expected, given the longer-term dynamics and variability in ecological systems, or is it due to factors like slow dispersal or to stores of pollutants in catchment soils and occasional acid episodes? Or does delayed recovery point to more complex, indirect interactions among species and multiple stressors that cannot be expected to lead to a simple reversal of acidification? I will try to evaluate these (partly) competing hypotheses.