The Air Resources Division participates in and initiates studies that assess the effects of air pollutants on soils, surface waters, vegetation, and wildlife in national parks. Pollutants affect park ecosystems in several ways; ozone can cause injury and growth reductions in trees and other plants; nitrogen and sulfur deposition can change soil and water chemistry, affecting plant nutrient availability and damaging aquatic biota; nitrogen deposition can also act as a fertilizer, often favoring non-native plant species; and toxic contaminants such as mercury, pesticides, and industrial by-products, can be deposited on park ecosystems where they can bioaccumulate to toxic levels in fish and other wildlife. In addition, these pollutants can act synergistically causing multi-stressor impacts to ecosystems.
Researchers and NPS managers work together in parks to develop a better understanding of how pollutants move through ecosystems, and to determine the locations, magnitude, and types of risks to resources posed by these pollutants. The information gained from these studies is used to inform the public about air quality impacts in National Parks; provide park managers with information to manage resources; and determine where air pollution emissions need to be reduced to better protect parks (through regulatory programs under the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts).
For more information on ecological assessments, please contact Tamara Blett at 303–969–2011.