Two Studies Reveal Pollution Problems in Western US National Parks

in Science & Tech by

An international group of scientists have studied 8 national parks and reserves for the past several years and found pollution in every one of them.  The parks that were used for the research were spread from southern Californi to the Artic.

The research reveals toxins contaminating air, soil, plantlife and wildlife including pesticides, industrial pollutants and toxins from burning fossil fuels.

Much of the contamination comes from local or regional sources but scientists even found evidence of pollutants that had traveled around the globe.  As lead researcher Staci Simonich says, the scientists knew that there would be pollution, particularly from pesticides but they were not expecting the levels they found in some of the most pristine spots on earth.

“But it still seems surprising that such remote and supposedly pristine areas are not all that pristine,” said Simonich.  “You never really get used to that.  And we’re now nailing down just where the real problems are and what is causing them.”

Pesticides are a major concern because they can bioaccumulate, or build up in the food chain, at every point in the ecosystem.  The places where they found the worst degree of pesticide build-up were in Sequoia, Rocky Mountain and Glacier National Park.  All three regions have a lot of agricultural activity.

Some of the observations made during the research were surprising to the scientists while others merely confirmed what they already suspected.

They found that each park or preserve they looked at had different pollution “signatures” that were affected by local input such as the above-mentioned agricultural activities.  Much of the pesticide and fossil fuel emissions were attributed to local activities, but some were noted to have traveled long distances.

One particularly concerning find was that the pesticides and emissions levels were concentrated in the coldest regions, leading to believing that “potential risks exist for indigenous people and subsistence food consumers that rely on fish and meat from cold ecosystems”.


Photo source: wikipedia