Nearly All National Parks Are Suffering From Air Pollution
Ninety-six percent of America's national parks have significant air pollution issues ranging from unhealthy breathing conditions to contaminated soils and waterways, according to a new report released by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).
"When people think of iconic parks like Joshua Tree or the Grand Canyon, they think of unspoiled landscapes and scenic views. I think they would be shocked to know that these are actually some of our most polluted national parks," said NPCA President and CEO Theresa Pierno.
Data compiled by the National Park Service was analyzed in order to evaluate more than 400 parks in four categories: harm imposed on nature, hazy skies, unhealthy air and climate change. Each park was ranked based as significant, moderate or little to no concern. Researchers found that 85 percent of parks have air that is unhealthy to breathe while almost 90 percent of parks suffer from either haze pollution or soil and water pollution that negatively impacts sensitive species and habitats. Moreover, climate change was dubbed a significant concern for 80 percent of national parks, though all will be affected to some degree in the coming years.
Unhealthy air that may pose negative effects on health was observed at 354 parks, 87 of which exhibited ozone levels of significant concern. Similarly, a 2018 study found that many national parks had similar ozone values to 20 of the largest major cities in the U.S. between 1990 and 2014. For example, Northern California's Sequoia National Park compared to Los Angeles for days when the air was considered "unhealthy for sensitive groups" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
"Air pollution is also posing a health risk to some of the 330 million people who visit our parks each year, as well as the communities who surround them," Pierno said. "The challenges facing our parks are undeniable, but so is our resolve to help clear their air and ensure they are protected as they were meant to be, by both their founders and by the laws in place to protect them."
Hazy skies documented at 370 parks of moderate or significant concern cause the average national park visitor to miss out on an estimated 50 miles of scenery. This has been seen at parks around the country, such as Big Bend National Park in Texas. A few days every year, air pollution here causes some of the worst air quality in terms of visible impairment at any park, reducing the visibility to less than 30 miles 6 percent of the time, according to the National Park Service.
Most air pollution does not originate in parks but is capable of traveling hundreds of miles through the wind, bringing with it deposits of nitrogen and sulfur compounds to even the most remote ones, particularly in the face of increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Harm to sensitive species and habitat was observed in 368 parks seeing artificially enriched soils and acidifying water systems. Ecosystems in the Rocky Mountains, Cascades and Sierra Nevada are particularly sensitive to increased nitrogen to the point that the NPS has developed a monitoring program dedicated to such measures.
Climate change is considered a significant concern because of increases in temperature, precipitation and early onset spring. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Glacier National Park in Montana is experiencing some of the biggest impacts as many of its namesake glaciers are melting or have already disappeared because of such extremes.
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By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.