Surface water acidity is decreasing in large areas of Europe and North America in response to reductions in atmospheric S deposition, but the ecological responses to these water-quality improvements are uncertain. Biota are recovering in some lakes and rivers, as water quality improves, but they are not yet recovering in others. To make sense of these different responses, and to foster effective management of the acid rain problem, we need to understand 2 things: i) the sequence of ecological steps needed for biotic communities to recover; and ii) where and how to intervene in this process should recovery stall. Here our purpose is to develop conceptual frameworks to serve these 2 needs. In the first framework, the primarily ecological one, a decision tree highlights the sequence of processes necessary for ecological recovery, linking them with management tools and responses to bottlenecks in the process. These bottlenecks are inadequate water quality, an inadequate supply of colonists to permit establishment, and community-level impediments to recovery dynamics. A second, more management-oriented framework identifies where we can intervene to overcome these bottlenecks, and what research is needed to build the models to operationalize the framework. Our ability to assess the benefits of S emission reduction would be simplified if we had models to predict the rate and extent of ecological recovery from acidification. To build such models we must identify the ecological steps in the recovery process. The frameworks we present will advance us towards this goal.
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Vol. 32 • No. 3