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Studies and Monitoring

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park (NP), Wyoming, has its own unique environmental concerns based on its particular ecology. Air quality studies and monitoring programs at Grand Teton NP focus on visibility and the deposition of nitrogen, sulfur, and toxic air contaminants. Click on the tabs below to review air quality studies and key scientific references at Grand Teton NP, as well as to access information on air quality monitoring in the park.

  • Studies & Projects
  • Monitoring & Data
  • Key References

Ongoing research in Grand Teton NP, Wyoming:

Nitrogen & Sulfur Impacts

Nitrogen and sulfur deposition at the park can be particularly harmful to sensitive high elevation lakes and vegetation communities. Recent analyses indicate certain alpine ecosystems in the park at risk from atmospheric deposition (Sullivan et al. 2011a; Sullivan et al. 2011b [pdf, 12 MB]; Nanus et al. 2009). Current studies at Grand Teton NP are investigating the fertilization effects of excess nitrogen (N) loading, including changes to the species composition of sensitive aquatic and terrestrial communities (Van Miegroet 2010; Spaulding 2009). These efforts aim to define a nitrogen critical load, the threshold at which a community shifts from undisturbed species to weedy, nitrogen-loving species.

Nitrogen levels in plants, soils, and in deposition samples indicate higher atmospheric N inputs to the north of the park and lower levels to the south (Van Miegroet 2010). Concentrations of ammonium in wet deposition from regional agriculture are also elevated and increasing at sites in or near to the park (NPS 2010 [pdf, 2.8 MB]; Ingersoll et al. 2007; Clow et al. 2003). The Grand Tetons Reactive Nitrogen Deposition Study (Grand TReNDS) will investigate what source regions and activities contribute to nitrogen deposition at the park.

Airborne Toxic, including Mercury, Impacts

Air currents transport toxic contaminants such as pesticides, industrial pollutants, and mercury from their sources, and deposit these toxics in rain, snow, and dry deposition (e.g., dust) at Grand Teton NP (find data »). Research findings from such studies as the Western Airborne Contaminants Assessment Project (WACAP) and Rocky Mountain Regional Snowpack Chemistry Monitoring Study found airborne contaminants in park air, vegetation, snow, and water (Landers et al. 2010; Krabbenhoft et al. 2002; Keteles 2010; Ingersoll et al. 2007). Mercury concentrations in the snowpack in and near to the park are increasing, and concentrations of current use pesticides in air and vegetation samples were elevated as compared to other national parks (Landers et al. 2010; Ingersoll et al. 2007).

Follow-up research is examining the extent to which contaminants are disrupting reproductive organs in fish at Grand Teton NP and other parks. Fish in other western national parks, including Rocky Mountain and Glacier National Parks, have been found with pesticide and mercury concentrations exceeding human and/or wildlife health thresholds (Landers et al. 2010; Landers et al. 2008). Reproductive abnormalities associated with airborne contaminant exposure were detected in some male fish at these parks (Schwindt et al. 2009).

Air quality monitoring information and data access:

Air Pollutant/Impact

Monitoring Program

Sites and Data Access

Nitrogen & Sulfur Wet deposition NADP/NTN
  • Grand Teton
Toxics & Mercury WACAP
Ozone NPS-GPMP
Visibility IMPROVE

Abbreviations in the above table:

    GPMP: Gaseous Pollutant Monitoring Program
    IMPROVE: Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments
    NADP: National Atmospheric Deposition Program
    NPS: National Park Service
    NTN: National Trends Network
    VIEWS: Visibility Information Exchange Web System
    WACAP: Western Airborne Contaminants Assessment Project

For more information regarding monitoring and data assessments conducted by the National Park Service, link to the NPS Air Quality Monitoring Program or to the NPS Air Quality Monitoring History Database for a history of active and inactive monitoring sites at Grand Teton NP.

Key air quality related references from Grand Teton NP, Wyoming:

Baron, J. S. 2006. Hindcasting nitrogen deposition to determine an ecological critical load. Ecological Applications 16: 433–439.

Bowman, W. D. 2009. Critical loads of atmospheric N deposition in alpine vegetation in Rocky Mountain and Glacier National Parks. NPS Final Completion Report.

Clow, D. W., Sickman, J. O., Striegl, R. G., Krabbenhoft, D. P., Elliott, J. G., Dornblaser, M., Roth, D.A., and Campbell, D. H. 2003. Changes in the chemistry of lakes and precipitation in high-elevation national parks in the western United States, 1985–1999. Water Resour. Res. 39(6): 1171.

[IMPROVE] Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments. 2010. Improve Summary Data. Available at http://vista.cira.colostate.edu/improve/Data/IMPROVE/summary_data.htm.

Ingersoll, G. P., Mast, M. A., Nanus, L., Handran, H. H., Manthorne, D. J., and Hultstrand, D. M. 2007. Rocky Mountain snowpack chemistry at selected sites, 2004: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2007–1045, 15 p. Available at http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2007/1045/.

Keteles, K. 2010. I’m from the Government and I’m Here to Help: EPA’s Commitment to Address Contaminants of Emerging Concern. NPS Water Resource Professionals Meeting 2010. Fort Collins, CO.

Kohut, R. 2004. Assessing the Risk of Foliar Injury from Ozone on Vegetation in Parks in the Greater Yellowstone Network. Available at http://www.nature.nps.gov/air/Pubs/pdf/03Risk/grynO3RiskOct04.pdf (pdf, 120 KB).

Krabbenhoft, D. P., Olson, M. L., Dewild, J. F., Clow, D. W., Striegl, R. G., Dornblaser, M. M., and VanMetre, P. 2002. Mercury loading and methylmercury production and cycling in high-altitude lakes from the western United States. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, Focus 2: 233–249.

Landers, D. H., Simonich, S. M., Jaffe, D. A., Geiser L. H., Campbell, D. H., Schwindt, A. R., Schreck, C. B., Kent, M. L., Hafner, W. D., Taylor, H. E., Hageman, K. J., Usenko, S., Ackerman, L. K., Schrlau, J. E., Rose, N. L., Blett, T. F., and Erway, M. M. 2008. The Fate, Transport, and Ecological Impacts of Airborne Contaminants in Western National Parks (USA). EPA/600/R—07/138. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, NHEERL, Western Ecology Division, Corvallis, Oregon. Available at http://www.nature.nps.gov/air/studies/air_toxics/WACAPreport.cfm.

Landers, D. H., Simonich, S. M., Jaffe, D. A., Geiser L. H., Campbell, D. H., Schwindt, A. R., Schreck, C. B., Kent, M. L., Hafner, W. D., Taylor, H. E., Hageman, K. J., Usenko, S., Ackerman, L. K., Schrlau, J. E., Rose, N. L., Blett, T. F., and Erway, M. M. 2010. The Western Airborne Contaminant Assessment Project (WACAP): An Interdisciplinary Evaluation of the Impacts of Airborne Contaminants in Western U.S. National Parks. Environmental Science and Technology. Vol 44: 855–859.

Nanus, L., Williams, M. W., Campbell, D. H., Tonnessen, K. A., Blett, T., and Clow, D. W. 2009. Assessment of lake sensitivity to acidic deposition in national parks of the Rocky Mountains. Ecological Applications 19(4): 961–973.

[NPS] National Park Service. 2010. Air Quality in National Parks: 2009 Annual Performance and Progress Report. Natural Resource Report NPS/NRPC/ARD/NRR—2010/266. National Park Service, Denver, Colorado. Available at http://www.nature.nps.gov/air/Pubs/pdf/gpra/AQ_Trends_In_ Parks_2009_Final_Web.pdf (pdf, 2.8 MB).

Peterson, D. L., Sullivan, T. J., Eilers, J. M., Brace, S., Horner, D., Savig, K., and Morse, D. 1998. Assessment of air quality and air pollutant impacts in national parks of the Rocky Mountains and northern Great Plains. Report NPS/CCSOUW/NRTR—98/19. National Park Service, Air Resources Division, Denver, CO. Chapter 4: Grand Teton National Park. Available at http://www.nature.nps.gov/air/Pubs/pdf/reviews/rm/RM4grtn.pdf (pdf, 694 KB).

Porter, E. and Johnson, S. 2007. Translating science into policy: Using ecosystem thresholds to protect resources in Rocky Mountain National Park. Environmental Pollution 149: 268–280.

Saros, J. E., Clow, D. W., Blett, T., Wolfe, A. P. 2010. Critical nitrogen deposition loads in high-elevation lakes of the western U.S. inferred from paleolimnological records. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution 216(1–4): 193–202.

Schwindt, A. R., Kent, M. L., Ackerman, L. K., Massey Simonich, S. L., Landers, D. H., Blett, T., Schreck, C. B. 2009.Reproductive Abnormalities in Trout from Western U.S. National Parks. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 138: 522–531.

Spaulding, S. A., Baron, J. S., Wolfe, A. P., O’Ney, S., Blett, T. 2009. Atmospheric deposition of inorganic nitrogen in Grand Teton NP: determining biological effects on algal communities in alpine lakes. NPS Final Implementation Plan.

Sullivan, T. J., T. C. McDonnell, G. T. McPherson, S. D. Mackey, and D. Moore. 2011.
Evaluation of the sensitivity of inventory and monitoring national parks to nutrient enrichment
effects from atmospheric nitrogen deposition: main report. Natural Resource Report
NPS/NRPC/ARD/NRR—2011/313. National Park Service, Denver, Colorado. Available at www.nature.nps.gov/air/permits/aris/networks/n-sensitivity.cfm.

Sullivan, T. J., T. C. McDonnell, G. T. McPherson, S. D. Mackey, and D. Moore. 2011b. Evaluation of the sensitivity of inventory and monitoring national parks to nutrient enrichment effects from atmospheric nitrogen deposition: Greater Yellowstone Network (GRYN). Natural Resource Report NPS/NRPC/ARD/NRR—2011/308. National Park Service, Denver, Colorado. Available at http://www.nature.nps.gov/air/Pubs/pdf/n-sensitivity/gryn_n_sensitivity_2011-02.pdf (pdf, 12 MB).

Van Miegroet, H. 2010. Assessment of nitrogen deposition and its possible effects on alpine vegetation in Grand Teton National Park. NPS Final Report.


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Pollutants including nitrogen, sulfur, mercury, ozone, and fine particles affect resources such as forests, streams, wildlife, and scenic vistas. Find out how on our Grand Teton NP Air Pollution Impacts web page.

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Last Updated: June 14, 2011