Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies (Oct 2021)

The geochemistry of Irish rivers

  • W. Berry Lyons,
  • Anne E. Carey,
  • Christopher B. Gardner,
  • Susan A. Welch,
  • Devin F. Smith,
  • Anna Szynkiewicz,
  • Melisa A. Diaz,
  • Peter Croot,
  • Tiernan Henry,
  • Raymond Flynn

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 37
p. 100881


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Study region: Ireland Study focus: Multiple studies have established that catchment geology and weathering regime strongly influence surface water chemistry, and that geochemical cycling can vary due to seasonal climatic conditions. However, fewer studies have focused on the influence these controls in a holistic manner. We relate the water chemistry of a country-wide Irish river survey to atmospheric input, underlying geology, and the influence of bogs. Climatic conditions were defined by an atypically wet winter and an unusually dry summer, providing the opportunity to investigate river chemistry variation across hydrologic conditions. Sampling included 21 of Ireland’s 22 largest rivers ranked by discharge, first-order and second-order streams draining bog lands, a second-order stream draining a limestone catchment, and downstream transects along the River Shannon. All samples were analyzed for major elements, selected trace elements, and nutrients, and a subset was analyzed for δ34SSO4. New hydrological insights: Most catchments were dominated by carbonate weathering with little contribution from the weathering of aluminosilicates. River water composition also varied geographically along the prevailing wind direction due to inputs from marine aerosols, with additional weathering components important in some systems. Seasonal influences could be seen in the chemistry of the headwaters of the River Shannon, while the lower reaches of the river exhibited less variable behavior throughout seasonal changes, likely due to the influence of lakes in the River Shannon system.