Acidity fluctuations at a broadland site in Norfolk.

Published online
01 Jan 1981
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Gosling, L. M. & Baker, S. J.

Publication language


In November 1970 the acidity of Calthorpe broad in Norfolk, and some adjacent ditches, changed abruptly from near-neutrality to just above pH 3. Most aquatic macrophytes persisted, while the emergent vegetation was little affected by acidity. There was a spectactular invasion by the acidophilous alga Tribonema minus. After a period of acute acidity the pH of free water returned to neutrality but similar fluctuations occurred in most years between 1971 and 1979. These events were paralleled by improved drainage in surrounding farmland that left a perched water table in the area around the broad. This situation was maintained by dams during the winter but evaporation and seepage caused extreme falls in water levels during the summer. As a consequence, soil, which was rich in pyrites, was subjected to alternate drying and saturation, which led to the oxidation of pyrite and the formation of sulphuric acid. Following lime treatment in 1978, which maintained neutral water in the broad although the acidity of the water in nearby ditches continued to fluctuate, a number of plants and animals recolonized the broad.

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