Gårdsjön, Sweden 1979 -

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Location and Scale[edit]

The Lake Gårdsjön area is located about 15km inland from the West coast of Sweden in Svartedalen, 50km north of Göteborg. The outlet of the lake is at 58.04' N and 12.01' E and contains the F1 control catchment (3.7 ha), while the manipulated catchments G1 (0.63 ha) and G2 (0.52 ha)are just over the divide to an adjacent catchment. The total catchment area to the lake is 2100 ha.


The Lake Gårdsjön project started in 1978, with monitoring of the F1 catchment starting in 1979.


Climate measurements started in 1990. Average temperatures are about 6.5 degrees with a strong annual cycle. Precipitation in the period 1978-1995 was 1137mm compared with 1074 mm in the reference period 1930-60 with higher winter precipitation and lower summer precipitation. October and November are generally the wettest months in the year. On an annual basis, discharge and actual evapotranspiration are both about 50% of precipitation


Underlying geology forms part of the Swedish Grey Gneiss region, with alternating bands of granite and metamorphic gneissic granodiorite with many bedrock outcrops. Limited glacial deposition of sandy to silty till, with 5% clay content of local origin. Fracture zones in NNW-SSE direction occur in catchment F1, and NNE to SSW in G1. The bedrock is thought to be predominantly impervious.


SW-sloping sub-Cambrian peneplain, gentle slopes. Elevation range is 113 to 141 m in F1, 123 - 143m in G1, and 133-146m in G2. All three catchments have shallow valley bottoms with steeper sides.

Vegetation / Land Use[edit]

Vegetation and land use history are covered in the papers by Olsson (1985) and Wallin and Denberg (1985).


A few historical monitoring data on lake chemistry are available from 1961/62 and 1969/70. Palaeolimnology demonstrated that acidification of the lake started in the 1950s. Monitoring of lake quality started in 1970, and with the initiation of the Lake Gårdsjön project in 1978 monitoring of inputs and outputs started catchment F1 in 1979. Liming of Lake Gårdsjön stated in 1982. Experimental works started in 1984, with two major manipulations (addition of nitrate in G2 and acidification reversal in the covered catchment G1) in 1991. Monitoring included chemistry, biogeochemical cycling and biota. The site was part of the UNECE programme for Integrated Monitoring of Air Pollution Effects, and the NITREX project.

The Gårdsjön project is well-known for the two major manipulation experiments. In catchment G1 the whole area was roofed. Precipitation was collected from the roof, and the same amount added by sprinkling below the roof of water pumped from the lake (though not at the same intensities which were limited by the capacity of the sprinkler system). This had both a different isotopic concentration than water stored in the soil prior to the experiment and a different pH because of liming of the lake. The change in environmental isotopes and acidity were monitored during the period of change. Some artificial tracer experiments were also carried out using Bromine and Tritium tracers in a 40 m section of the valley bottom in G1 (see Nyberg et al., 1999). Longer term results were reported by Moldan et al. (2004). The plot tracer data and G1 isotope data have been modelled using particle tracking methods by Davies et a. (2011, 2013).

In the catchment G2, under the NITREX experiment, critical loads of Nitrate were added starting in 1991 (see Dise and Wright, 1992; Moldan et al., 2006).

The site has also been an important study area for work on mercury and methyl mercury in catchments (e.g. Lee et al., 2000; Menthe and Hultberg, 2004).


When the "Roof" catchment at Gårdsjön was opened, the Swedish Minister of Environment, Birgitta Dahl, was there and gave a speech. While very supportive of the project, she did describe the the roofed catchment as something of a “big playhouse (lekstuga) for grown-ups” Kevin Bishop

Reference Material[edit]

Books and Reports[edit]

Folke Andersson and Bengt Olsson, (Eds), 1985, Lake Gårdsjön: An Acid Forest Lake and Its Catchment, Ecological Bulletins 37, Oikos, Springer.

Dise, N B and Wright, R F (Eds), 1992, The NITREX project (Nitrogen Saturation Experiements), Ecosystem Research Reports, 2. European Union, Brussels, 101p

Hans Hultberg, R. A. Skeffington, (Eds), 1998, Experimental reversal of acid rain effects: the Gårdsjön Roof Project, John Wiley & Sons: Chichester

Selected Papers[edit]

Hultberg, H., 1985. Budgets of base cations, chloride, nitrogen and sulphur in the acid Lake Gårdsjön catchment, SW Sweden. Ecological Bulletins, 37: 133-157.

Johansson, S and Nilsson, T, 1985, Hydrology of the Lake Gårdsjön area, Ecological Bulletins 37: 86-97

Nyström, U., 1985, Transit time distributions of water in two small forested catchments, Ecological Bulletins, 37: 97-101

Olsson, B., 1985, Land-use history of the Lake Gårdsjön area, SW Sweden, Ecological Bulletins, 37: 35-46.

Wallin, J-E and Renberg, I., 1985, Vegetation history of the Lake Gårdsjön area, Bohuslän, SW Sweden, Ecological Bulletins, 37: 31-35.

Hultberg, H. and Grennfelt, P., 1986. Gårdsjön Project: lake acidification, chemistry in catchment runoff, lake liming and microcatchment manipulations. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, 30(1-2), pp.31-46.

Nyberg, L., Bishop, K. and Rodhe, A., 1993. Importance of hydrology in the reversal of acidification in till soils, Gårdsjön, Sweden. Applied geochemistry, 8, pp.61-66.

Bishop, K.H. and Hultberg, H., 1995. Reversing acidification in a forest ecosystem: The Gårdsjön covered catchment. Ambio (Sweden).

Brandrud, T.E., 1995. The effects of experimental nitrogen addition on the ectomycorrhizal fungus flora in an oligotrophic spruce forest at Gårdsjön, Sweden. Forest Ecology and Management, 71(1-2), pp.111-122.

Nyberg, L., 1995, Waer flow path interactions with soil hydraulic properties in the soil at Gårdsjön, Sweden, J. Hydrology, 170: 255-275

Stuanes, A.O., Kjønaas, O.J. and Van Miegroet, H., 1995. Soil solution response to experimental addition of nitrogen to a forested catchment at Gårdsjön, Sweden. Forest Ecology and management, 71(1-2), pp.99-110.

Wright, R.F., Brandrud, T.E., Clemensson-Lindell, A., Hultberg, H., Kjønaas, O.J., Moldan, F., Persson, H. and Stuanes, A.O., 1995. NITREX project: ecosystem response to chronic additions of nitrogen to a spruce-forested catchment at Gårdsjön, Sweden. Ecological Bulletins, pp.322-334.

Lange, H., Lischeid, G., Hoch, R. and Hauhs, M., 1996. Water flow paths and residence times in a small headwater catchment at Gårdsjön, Sweden, during steady state storm flow conditions. Water resources research, 32(6), pp.1689-1698.

Nyberg, L., 1996. Spatial variability of soil water content in the covered catchment at Gårdsjön, Sweden. Hydrological Processes, 10(1), pp.89-103.

Kjønaas, O.J., Stuanes, A.O. and Huse, M., 1998. Effects of weekly nitrogen additions on N cycling in a coniferous forest catchment, Gårdsjön, Sweden. Forest Ecology and Management, 101(1-3), pp.227-249.

Moldan, F. and Wright, R.F., 1998. Changes in runoff chemistry after five years of N addition to a forested catchment at Gårdsjön, Sweden. Forest Ecology and Management, 101(1-3), pp.187-197.

Stuanes, A.O. and Kjønaas, O.J., 1998. Soil solution chemistry during four years of NH4NO3 addition to a forested catchment at Gårdsjön, Sweden. Forest Ecology and Management, 101(1-3), pp.215-226.

Nyberg, L., Rodhe, A. and Bishop, K., 1999. Water transit times and flow paths from two line injections of 3H and 36Cl in a microcatchment at Gårdsjön, Sweden. Hydrological processes, 13(11), pp.1557-1575.

Lee, Y.H., Bishop, K.H. and Munthe, J., 2000. Do concepts about catchment cycling of methylmercury and mercury in boreal catchments stand the test of time? Six years of atmospheric inputs and runoff export at Svartberget, northern Sweden. Science of the Total Environment, 260(1-3), pp.11-20.

Moldan, F., Skeffington, R.A., Mörth, C.M., Torssander, P., Hultberg, H. and Munthe, J., 2004. Results from the covered catchment experiment at Gårdsjön, Sweden, after ten years of clean precipitation treatment. Water, air, and soil pollution, 154(1-4), pp.371-384.

Munthe, J. and Hultberg, H., 2004. Mercury and methylmercury in runoff from a forested catchment—concentrations, fluxes, and their response to manipulations. In Biogeochemical Investigations of Terrestrial, Freshwater, and Wetland Ecosystems across the Globe (pp. 607-618). Springer, Dordrecht.

Moldan, F., Kjønaas, O.J., Stuanes, A.O. and Wright, R.F., 2006. Increased nitrogen in runoff and soil following 13 years of experimentally increased nitrogen deposition to a coniferous-forested catchment at Gårdsjön, Sweden. Environmental Pollution, 144(2), pp.610-620.

McNamara, J.P., Tetzlaff, D., Bishop, K., Soulsby, C., Seyfried, M., Peters, N.E., Aulenbach, B.T. and Hooper, R., 2011. Storage as a metric of catchment comparison. Hydrological Processes, 25(21), pp.3364-3371.

Larssen, T., de Wit, H.A., Wiker, M. and Halse, K., 2008. Mercury budget of a small forested boreal catchment in southeast Norway. Science of the total environment, 404(2-3), pp.290-296.

Davies, J, Beven, K J, Nyberg, L and Rodhe, A, 2011, A discrete particle representation of hillslope hydrology: hypothesis testing in reproducing a tracer experiment at Gårdsjön, Sweden, Hydrological Processes, 25: 3602–3612. doi: 10.1002/hyp.8085.

Moldan, F., Hruška, J., Evans, C.D. and Hauhs, M., 2012. Experimental simulation of the effects of extreme climatic events on major ions, acidity and dissolved organic carbon leaching from a forested catchment, Gårdsjön, Sweden. Biogeochemistry, 107(1-3), pp.455-469.

Davies, J., K. J. Beven, A. Rodhe, L. Nyberg and K. Bishop, 2013, Integrated modelling of flow and residence times at the catchment scale with multiple interacting pathways, Water Resour. Res. 49(8): 4738-4750 DOI: 10.1002/wrcr.20377


Gårdsjön as a LTER site