Use of Regression-Based Models to Map Sensitivity of Aquatic Resources to Atmospheric Deposition in Yosemite National Park, USA

David W. Clow1, Leora Nanus2 and Brian Huggett3

An abundance of exposed bedrock, sparse soil and vegetation, and fast hydrologic flushing rates make aquatic ecosystems in Yosemite National Park susceptible to nutrient enrichment and episodic acidification due to atmospheric deposition of nitrogen (N) and sulfur (S). In this study, multiple-linear regression (MLR) models were created to estimate fall-season nitrate and acid neutralizing capacity (ANC) in surface water in Yosemite wilderness. Input data included estimated winter N deposition, fall-season surface-water chemistry measurements at 52 sites, and basin characteristics derived from geographic information system layers of topography, geology, and vegetation. The MLR models accounted for 84% and 70% of the variance in surface-water nitrate and ANC, respectively. Explanatory variables (and the sign of their coefficients) for nitrate included elevation (positive) and the abundance of neoglacial and talus deposits (positive), unvegetated terrain (positive), alluvium (negative), and riparian (negative) areas in the basins. Explanatory variables for ANC included basin area (positive) and the abundance of metamorphic rocks (positive), unvegetated terrain (negative), water (negative), and winter N deposition (negative) in the basins. The MLR equations were applied to 1407 stream reaches delineated in the National Hydrography Dataset for Yosemite, and maps of predicted surface-water nitrate and ANC concentrations were created. Predicted surface-water nitrate concentrations were highest in small, high-elevation cirques, and concentrations declined downstream. Predicted ANC concentrations showed the opposite pattern, except in high-elevation areas underlain by metamorphic rocks along the Sierran Crest, which had relatively high predicted ANC (>200 µeq L-1). Maps were created to show where basin characteristics predispose aquatic resources to nutrient enrichment and acidification effects from N and S deposition. The maps can be used to help guide development of water-quality programs designed to monitor and protect natural resources in national parks.

1 U.S. Geological Survey; MS 415 Federal Center; Denver, Colorado 80225; , 303-236-4882 x294
2 Formerly at USGS, now at Department of Geosciences, San Francisco State University
3 Formerly at National Park Service, now at Department of Forestry and Wildland Resources, Humboldt State University, California