Douglas A. Burns

Douglas A. Burns
United States Geological Survey | USGS · New York Water Science Center

Ph.D.

About

186
Publications
50,491
Reads
How we measure 'reads'
A 'read' is counted each time someone views a publication summary (such as the title, abstract, and list of authors), clicks on a figure, or views or downloads the full-text. Learn more
8,129
Citations
Introduction
I study the effects of anthropogenic activities on chemical element cycling in ecosystems. Particular areas of interest are the biogeochemical and hydrological processes that control the cycling of mercury, nitrogen, carbon, and sulfur at the watershed scale. A recent focus is the effects of climate change on streamflow with an emphasis on high flows and implications for water quality. I also coordinate a program in the U.S. Geological Survey focused on next generation environmental monitoring.
Additional affiliations
March 1999 - August 1999
December 1987 - present
United States Geological Survey
Position
  • New York Water Science Center

Publications

Publications (186)
Book
Full-text available
Sustaining the quality of the Nation’s water resources and the health of our diverse ecosystems depends on the availability of sound water-resources data and information to develop effective, science-based policies. Effective management of water resources also brings more certainty and efficiency to important economic sectors. Taken together, these...
Article
This data note describes the Biscuit Brook and Neversink Reservoir watershed Long-Term Monitoring Data that includes: 1) stream discharge, (1983 – 2020 for Biscuit Brook and 1937 – 2020 for the Neversink Reservoir watershed), 2) stream water chemistry, 1983-2020, at 4 stations, 3) fish survey data from 16 locations in the watershed 1990-2019, 4) so...
Article
Modeling studies project that in the future surface waters in the northeast US will continue to recover from acidification over decades following reductions in atmospheric sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emissions. However, these studies generally assume stationary climatic conditions over the simulation period and ignore the linkages between so...
Article
Acidic deposition contributes to a range of environmental impacts across forested landscapes, including acidification of soil and drainage water, toxic aluminum mobilization, depletion of available soil nutrient cations, and impacts to forest and aquatic species health and biodiversity. In response to decreasing levels of acidic deposition, soils a...
Article
The Panola Mountain Research Watershed (PMRW) is a 41‐hectare forested catchment within the Piedmont Province of the Southeastern United States. Observations, experimentation, and numerical modeling have been conducted at Panola over the past 35 years. But to date, these studies have not been fully incorporated into a more comprehensive synthesis....
Article
Full-text available
The Chesapeake Bay watershed has been the focus of pioneering studies of the role of atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition as a nutrient source and driver of estuarine trophic status. Here, we review the history and evolution of scientific investigations of the role of atmospheric N deposition, examine trends from wet and dry deposition networks, and...
Article
Full-text available
Acid rain was first recognized in the 1970s in North America and Europe as an atmospheric pollutant that was causing harm to ecosystems. In response, the U.S. Congress enacted Title IV of the Clean Air Act Amendments (CAA) in 1990 to reduce sulfur and nitrogen emissions from fossil fuel burning power plants. This study reports trends in wet-precipi...
Article
Full-text available
Mercury (Hg) concentrations in freshwater fish across the state of New York frequently exceed guidelines considered harmful to humans and wildlife, but statewide distribution and temporal changes are not well known for the state’s streams and rivers. We analyzed existing data to describe recent spatial patterns, identify key environmental drivers,...
Article
Full-text available
Mercury (Hg) pollution is an environmental problem that adversely affects human and ecosystem health at local, regional, and global scales-including within New York State. More than two-thirds of the Hg currently released to the environment originates, either directly or indirectly, from human activities. Since the early 1800s, global atmospheric H...
Article
Full-text available
Acid deposition has declined across eastern North America and northern Europe due to reduced emissions of sulfur and nitrogen oxides. Ecosystem recovery has been slow with limited improvement in surface water chemistry. Delayed recovery has encouraged acid-neutralization strategies to accelerate recovery of impaired biological communities. Lime app...
Technical Report
Full-text available
Presents mercury concentrations in streams, sediment, and biological tissue from samples collected in the Bad River watershed in northern Wisconsin. The data were originally collected by or sampling was funded by the Natural Resource Department of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
Technical Report
Full-text available
Describes results of a project in which stream chemistry responses to past, current, and future atmospheric deposition were modeled across the Adirondack region of New York.
Article
Full-text available
The present-day acid-base chemistry of surface waters can be directly linked to contemporary observations of acid deposition; however, pre-industrial conditions are key to predicting the potential future recovery of stream ecosystems under decreasing loads of atmospheric sulfur (S) and nitrogen (N) deposition. The integrated biogeochemical model Pn...
Article
Mercury (Hg) concentrations in freshwater fish across the state of New York frequently exceed guidelines considered harmful to humans and wildlife, but statewide distribution and temporal changes are not well known for the state's streams and rivers. We analyzed existing data to describe recent spatial patterns, identify key environmental drivers,...
Article
Acidic atmospheric deposition has adversely affected aquatic ecosystems globally. As emissions and deposition of sulfur (S) and nitrogen (N) have declined in recent decades across North America and Europe, ecosystem recovery is evident in many surface waters. However, persistent chronic and episodic acidification remain important concerns in vulner...
Article
Full-text available
Widespread deployment of sensors that measure river nitrate (NO3⁻) concentrations has led to many recent publications in water resources journals including review papers focused on data quality assurance, improved load calculations, and better nutrient management. The principal objective of this study is to review and synthesize studies of high‐fre...
Article
To better understand the effects of climate change on streamflow, the hydrologic response to both temperature and precipitation needs to be examined at the mesoscale. New York State provides a hydrologically diverse mesoscale region, where sub-regional clusters of watersheds may respond differently to changes in temperature and in seasonal precipit...
Article
Little is known about the regional extent and variability of nitrate from atmospheric deposition that is transported to streams without biological processing in forests. We measured water chemistry and isotopic tracers of nitrate sources across the Northern Forest Region of the USA and Canada and reanalyzed data from other studies to determine when...
Article
Full-text available
Little is known about temporal variability in nitrate concentration responses to changes in discharge on intraannual time scales in large rivers. To investigate this knowledge gap, we used a six-year data set of daily surface water nitrate concentration and discharge averaged from near-continuous monitoring at U.S. Geological Survey gaging stations...
Article
Full-text available
Surface waters across much of New York’s Adirondack Mountains were acidified in the late 20th century but began to recover following the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act. Little data, however, are available to characterize biological impacts and predict recovery of fish assemblages in streams of the region. Quantitative fish and chemistry surve...
Article
p>Total nitrogen (N) deposition has declined in many parts of the U.S. and Europe since the 1990s. Even so, it appears that decreased N deposition alone may be insufficient to induce recovery from the impacts of decades of elevated deposition, suggesting that management interventions may be necessary to promote recovery. Here we review the effectiv...
Data
This data publication includes water chemistry, nitrate isotopic values (δ15N and δ18O), apportioned amounts of unprocessed atmospheric nitrate in freshwaters, streamflow, streamflow apportioned into quick flow, and associated metadata. Data were collected from forested or predominantly forested catchments in the United States and Canada. Some samp...
Article
Full-text available
River networks modify material transfer from land to ocean. Understanding the factors regulating this function for different gaseous, dissolved, and particulate constituents is critical to quantify the local and global effects of climate and land use change. We propose the River Network Saturation (RNS) concept as a generalization of how river netw...
Article
Full-text available
In the Anthropocene, watershed chemical transport is increasingly dominated by novel combinations of elements, which are hydrologically linked together as ‘chemical cocktails.’ Chemical cocktails are novel because human activities greatly enhance elemental concentrations and their probability for biogeochemical interactions and shared transport alo...
Article
Full-text available
Excess nitrogen and phosphorus (i.e., nutrients) environmental loadings continue to affect ecosystem function and human health across the U.S. Our ability to connect atmospheric inputs of nutrients to aquatic endpoints remains limited due to uncoupled air and water quality monitoring. Where connections exist, the information provides insights about...
Article
The direction and magnitude of responses of evapotranspiration (ET) to climate change are important to understand, as ET represents a major water and energy flux from terrestrial ecosystems, with consequences that feed back to the climate system. We inferred multi‐decadal trends in water balance in 11 river basins (1940‐2012) and 8 smaller watershe...
Article
Archived soil samples can provide important information on the history of environmental contamination and by comparison with recently collected samples, temporal trends can be inferred. Little previous work has addressed whether mercury (Hg) concentrations in soil samples are stable with long-term storage under standard laboratory conditions. In th...
Article
Full-text available
Declines in acidic deposition across Europe and North America have led to decreases in surface water acidity and signs of chemical recovery of soils from acidification. To better understand the link between recovery of soils and surface waters, chemical trends in precipitation, soils, and streamwater were investigated in three watersheds representi...
Article
Full-text available
Surface waters in Europe and North America previously impacted by acid deposition are recovering in conjunction with declining precursor emissions since the 1980s. Lime has been applied to some impacted watersheds to accelerate recovery. The response to liming can be considered a proxy for future recovery from acid deposition. Increases in dissolve...
Article
Full-text available
Simple screening approaches for the neurotoxicant methylmercury (MeHg) in aquatic ecosystems may be helpful in risk assessments of natural resources. We explored the development of such an approach in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, USA, a region with high levels of MeHg bioaccumulation. Thirty-six perennial streams broadly representative of...
Article
Full-text available
The Catskill Mountains have been adversely impacted by decades of acid deposition, however, since the early 1990s, levels have decreased sharply as a result of decreases in emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. This study examines trends in acid deposition, stream-water chemistry, and soil chemistry in the southeastern Catskill Mountains...
Article
Full-text available
Recent studies have found insignificant or decreasing trends in time-series dissolved organic carbon (DOC) datasets, questioning the assumption that long-term DOC concentrations in surface waters are increasing in response to anthropogenic forcing, including climate change, land use, and atmospheric acid deposition. We used the Weighted Regressions...
Article
Full-text available
This study evaluated the contribution of winter rain-on-snow (ROS) events to annual and seasonal nitrate (N-NO3) export and identified the regional meteorological drivers of inter-annual variability in ROS N-NO3 export (ROS-N) at 9 headwater streams located across Ontario, Canada and the northeastern United States. Although on average only 3.3 % of...
Article
Full-text available
The Potomac River is a large source of N to Chesapeake Bay, where reducing nutrient loads is a focus of efforts to improve trophic status. Better understanding of NO3– loss, reflected in part by diel variation in NO3– concentrations, may refine model predictions of N loads to the Bay. We analyzed 2 y of high-frequency NO3– sensor data in the Potoma...
Article
A cross-site analysis was conducted on seven diverse, forested watersheds in the northeastern U.S. to evaluate hydrological responses (evapotranspiration, soil moisture, seasonal and annual streamflow, and water stress) to projections of future climate. We used output from four Atmosphere-Ocean General Circulation Models (AOGCMs) (CCSM4, HadGEM2-CC...
Article
Full-text available
Abstract Estimating streamwater solute loads is a central objective of many water‐quality monitoring and research studies, as loads are used to compare with atmospheric inputs, to infer biogeochemical processes, and to assess whether water quality is improving or degrading. In this study, we evaluate loads and associated errors to determine the bes...
Article
Full-text available
Net fluxes (change between upstream and downstream margins) for water, methyl mercury (MeHg), total mercury (THg), dissolved organic carbon (DOC), and chloride (Cl) were assessed twice in an Adirondack stream reach (Sixmile Brook, USA), to test the hypothesized importance of wetland-stream hydraulic and chemical gradients as fundamental controls on...
Article
Full-text available
Demand for woody biomass fuels is increasing amidst concerns about global energy security and climate change, but there may be negative implications of increased harvesting for forest ecosystem functions and their benefits to society (ecosystem services). Using new methods for assessing ecosystem services based on long-term experimental research, p...
Article
Full-text available
We describe a new approach that couples hydrograph separation with high-frequency nitrate data to quantify time-variable groundwater and runoff loading of nitrate to streams, and the net in-stream fate of nitrate at the watershed-scale. The approach was applied at three sites spanning gradients in watershed size and land use in the Chesapeake Bay w...
Technical Report
Full-text available
A new Web-based application, titled “Application of Flood Regressions and Climate Change Scenarios To Explore Estimates of Future Peak Flows,” has been developed by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the New York State Department of Transportation, that allows a user to apply a set of regression equations to estimate the magnitude of f...
Technical Report
Full-text available
Good environmental policy reflects a balance of competing visions of how and to what extent human activities are impacting ecosystems with the costs and benefits of protecting these ecosystems. Environmental policies can prevent the degradation of ecosystem services, but can conflict with attitudes about economic growth, governmental intervention,...
Technical Report
Full-text available
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT), a unit of the National Park Service (NPS), spans over 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine, encompassing a diverse range of ecosystems. Acidic deposition (acid rain) threatens the AT’s natural resources. Acid rain is a result of sulfur (S) and nitrogen (N) compounds produced from fossil fuel combustion, moto...
Technical Report
Full-text available
Streamflow in the Esopus Creek watershed is altered by two major watershed management activities carried out by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection as part of its responsibility to maintain a water supply for New York City: (1) diversion of water from the Schoharie Creek watershed to the Esopus Creek through the Shandaken Tunne...
Article
Full-text available
A better understanding is needed of how hydrological and biogeochemical processes control dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations and dissolved organic matter (DOM) composition from headwaters downstream to large rivers. We examined a large DOM dataset from the National Water Information System of the US Geological Survey, which represents ap...
Article
Inverse empirical models can inform and improve more complex process-based models by quantifying the principal factors that control water quality variation. Here, we developed a multiple regression model that explains 81% of the variation in filtered methylmercury (FMeHg) concentrations in Fishing Brook, a 4th-order stream in the Adirondack Mountai...