Although they are often remote and scenic, it has long been known that mountain ecosystems receive higher doses of pollutants and nutrients than do nearby valleys. Known as atmospheric deposition, these doses of pollution are delivered through rain, snow, cloud, fog, rime ice or as gases and dry particles. Because gathering data from mountains can be expensive and difficult, measurements of atmospheric deposition are often made from single points, such as towers at the tops of mountains.
But a new study published this month reveals that these current methods of measurement may be inadequate. The researchers, writing in the journal Ecological Applications (Volume 10, No. 2), say that estimates of atmospheric deposition need to take into account the complex landscapes of mountains, and the effects that mountain terrain may have on the way atmospheric deposition makes its way to the surface of the earth. One area of a mountain, they discovered, can receive dramatically different amounts of pollutants and excess nutrients than another, and those differences can create depositional hotspots where ecosystems may be particularly susceptible to stress.
The study's authors, Kathleen Weathers, Gary Lovett, Gene Likens and Richard Lathrop, focused their work on the Catskill Mountains of New York. The Catskills provided an ideal research site because they are within 150 km of the massive New York-New Jersey metropolitan area where emissions of both pollutants and nutrients are high. Although the Catskill Mountains are close to these metropolitan areas, some areas of these mountains have been largely undisturbed for the past 100 years. In addition, the Catskill region is of particular interest because the area's watersheds provide 90% of New York City's water supply.
Soil samples were taken from Hunter Mountain, which is the second highest peak in the Catskills. Sites of different elevations on the northern, southern, eastern and western aspects of t
Contact: Alison Gillespie
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Ecological Society of America