Records of atmospheric precipitation chemistry starting in 1983 and a series of limnological investigations at two high mountain reference lakes starting in 1988 enable us to describe the response of lake water chemistry to changes in precipitation chemistry and climate. The lakes are located at an altitude well above the timberline in a watershed composed of acidic rocks. Despite the observed reduction in the sulphur atmospheric deposition, the reference lakes showed no corresponding decline in sulphate concentrations, but a marked increase in the acid neutralising capacity was apparent. Changes of the seasonal distribution pattern of the precipitation amounts and a general increase of the air temperature have likely produced an increased weathering which increased the concentration of many inlake solutes and drove the lakes toward more buffered conditions. This phenomenon superimposed to changes like other physical factors (radiation), nutritional conditions and biological factors (enhanced production, competition, predation) has produced in the last years greater modifications than merely those to be expected from the decreased acidic input.
mountain lakes; acidification; anthropogenic factors; chemical limnology; South Tyrol; pollutant deposition