Atmospheric deposition in mountainous terrain: scaling up to the landscape


Principal Investigator:

  Kathleen C. Weathers
Institute of Ecosystem Studies
P.O. Box AB
Millbrook, NY 12545
Phone: (845) 677-5343

Gary M. Lovett, Institute of Ecosystem Studies

Steven E. Lindberg, University of Tennessee

Parks: Acadia National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park


Project Summary:

        This project will develop a new modeling approach for scaling point measurements of atmospheric deposition to whole landscapes. Such a model is necessary to understand the complex character of nutrient and pollutant inputs which occur over the scales of interest in the National Parks. Our fundamental hypothesis is that deposition of a variety of airborne constituents shows a predictable response to major landscape features which can be quantified in the field. These response functions can then be used to predict deposition patterns and relative rates of input of the chemicals of interest. We will quantify these response functions across the landscapes of two National Parks, chosen for their potential air pollutant impacts and terrain features that severely restrict where routine flux monitoring can be done.

        The parks to be addressed are Acadia National Park in Maine and Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina. Two primary methods will be employed to characterize the deposition/terrain response fields: sulfate fluxes in throughfall and lead in surface soils. These approaches have been shown to be excellent tracers of the primary deposition processes, and each addresses a time scale critical to the modeling approach (from seasons to decades). Once quantified, the response functions, which indicate the enhancement of deposition in areas of interest relative to routine monitoring locations, will be used with a GIS-based approach to scale up from the monitoring location to the entire landscape based on the spatial distribution of the primary controlling landscape features. The models will be tested against field data and existing databases. The modeling approach will be generic, allowing for application to other parks, and to a variety of airborne materials.

        This project represents a crucial step in atmospheric deposition research: the empirical modeling approach proposed here offers the best means available to scale up atmospheric deposition measurements in complex terrain. In addition, this research is also extremely important for the management of ecosystems exposed to atmospheric deposition. It will allow managers to address the utility of the current atmospheric exposure monitoring for estimating atmospheric deposition to sensitive ecosystems at 'far-flung' corners of the park. Furthermore, in the face of limited budgets, it will allow Park Superintendents to identify which portions of the parks are at greatest risk of air pollution induced damage--which areas are "hotspots" of deposition--and therefore might require the most intense research or remediation effort. Finally, to the extent that this project will quantify deposition loads to park landscapes, it will allow managers to evaluate the potential effect of a proposed upwind pollution source. The GIS-based deposition models developed in this research will be a valuable tool specifically designed to help park scientists address these questions.



Correlating predictive contaminant deposition maps with streamwater chemistry at Acadia National Park (Abstract)

Atmospheric Deposition in Complex Terrain: Scaling Up to the Landscape at ACAD and GRSM: Summary and Figures

2001 PRIMENet Meeting Presentation: Atmospheric Deposition to Complex Terrain: Scaling Up to the Landscape (K.C. Weathers, G.M. Lovett, S.E. Lindberg, S.M. Simkin, D.N. Lewis, K. Schwarz)

Atmospheric Deposition in Mountainous Terrain: Scaling up to the Landscape 2003: Final Report


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