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Studies and Monitoring

Lassen Volcanic National Park

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

  • Studies & Projects
  • Monitoring & Data
  • Key References

Ongoing research in Lassen Volcanic NP, California:

Nitrogen & Sulfur Impacts

Recent analyses indicate certain ecosystems like grasslands, meadows, and high-elevation lakes in the park are at risk from both acidification and excess nutrient effects from atmospheric deposition (Sullivan et al. 2011a; Sullivan et al. 2011b [pdf, 6.8 MB]; Sullivan et al. 2011c; Sullivan et al. 2011d [pdf, 2.6 MB]). Potential effects have not been evaluated in the park, but research in similar ecosystems has defined various thresholds, or critical loads, including: 3.1 kilograms per hectare of nitrogen deposition per year (kg/ha/yr) for forest lichens and 1.4 kg/ha/yr for alpine lakes (Fenn et al. 2010; Saros et al. 2011). Measured amounts of sulfur and nitrogen deposition at the park are below these critical loads, but very sensitive resources may be affected. find data »

Airborne Toxic, including Mercury, Impacts

Research findings from the Western Airborne Contaminants Assessment Project and follow-up work indicate the presence of airborne toxic contaminants in air, vegetation, water, and fish (Krabbenhoft et al. 2002; Landers et al. 2010; Landers et al. 2008). Follow-up research to examine the extent to which contaminants are causing abnormalities in reproductive organs in fish at Crater Lake NP and other parks is ongoing. Additionally, a study in progress to analyze mercury concentrations in fish from western national parks, including Lassen Volcanic NP, will fill address the extent of mercury contamination and identify potential risks to humans and fish-consuming wildlife (study overview [pdf, 699 KB]). The State Water Resources Control Board's Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP), also surveyed contaminant accumulation in fish from California lakes and reservoirs, some in close proximity to Lassen Volcanic NP, and found that mercury and PCB concentrations pose the most widespread potential health risks to consumer of fish caught from California lakes (Davis et al. 2009 [pdf, 16.0 MB]).The Sierra Nevada-Southern Cascades (SNSC) Contaminants Workshop addressed regional concerns regarding contaminant distribution and effects. As a consequence, a research and monitoring strategy is being developed to examine conditions and trends in toxic air contaminants in the region.

Ground-Level Ozone Impacts

Ozone concentrations at the park are sometimes elevated. Previous research on Pinus jeffreyi (Jeffrey pine) and Pinus ponderosa (ponderosa pine) observed foliar ozone injury on greater than 25 percent of the trees sampled (Arbaugh et al. 1998). More recently, the U.S. Forest Service has found ozone injury on trees examined near the park in Lassen County (Campbell et al. 2007 [pdf, 2.3 MB]). find data »

Air quality monitoring information and data access:

Air Pollutant/Impact

Monitoring Program

Sites and Data Access

Nitrogen & Sulfur Wet deposition NADP/NTN
Dry deposition CASTNet
Toxics & Mercury WACAP
Ozone NPS-GPMP
Visibility IMPROVE

Abbreviations in the above table:

    CASTNet: EPA Clean Air Status and Trends Network
    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 Lassen Volcanic NP.

Key air quality related references from Lassen Volcanic NP, California:

Arbaugh, M. J., Miller, P. R., Carroll, J. J., Takemoto, B., and Procter, T. 1998. Relationships of ozone exposure to pine injury in the Sierra Nevada and San Bernardino Mountains of California, USA. Environ. Pollut. 101: 291–301.

Campbell, S. J., Wanek, R., Coulston, J. W. 2007. Ozone injury in west coast forests: 6 years of monitoring. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-722. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 53 p. Available at http://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/pubs/pnw_gtr722.pdf (pdf, 2.3 MB).

Davis, J. A., Melwani A. R., Bezalel S. N., Hunt J. A., Ichikawa G., Bonnema A., Heim W. A., Crane D., Swenson S., Lamerdin C., and Stephenson M. 2009. Contaminants in Fish from California Lakes and Reservoirs: Technical Report on Year One of a Two-Year Screening Survey. A Report of the Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP). California State Water Resources Control Board, Sacramento, CA. Available at http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/swamp/docs/lakes
_study/lakes_report_complete.pdf
(pdf, 16.0 MB).

Fenn, M. E., Allen, E. B., Weiss, S. B., Jovan, S., Geiser, L. H., Tonnesen, G. S., Johnson, R. F., Rao, L. E., Gimeno, B. S., Yuan, F., Meixner, T., Bytnerowicz, A. 2010. Nitrogen critical loads and management alternatives for N-impacted ecosystems in California. Journal of Environmental Management 91 (12): 2404–2423.

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

Jaffe, D., Chand, D., Hafner, W., Westerling, A., and Spracklen, D. 2008. Influence of fires on O-3 concentrations in the western US. Environmental Science & Technology 42 (16): 5885–5891.

Jaffe, D., Price, H., Parrish, D., Goldstein, A., and Harris, J. 2003. Increasing background ozone during spring on the west coast of North America. Geophysical Research Letters 30 (12): 1613.

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., Geiser, L., Campbell, D. H., Schwindt, A., Schreck, C., Kent, M., Hafner, W., Taylor, H. E., Hageman, K., Usenko, S., Ackerman, L., Schrlau, J., Rose, N., Blett, T., 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 44: 855–859.

Landers, D. H., S. L. Simonich, D. A. Jaffe, L. H. Geiser, D. H. Campbell, A. R. Schwindt, C. B. Schreck, M. L. Kent, W. D. Hafner, H. E. Taylor, K. J. Hageman, S. Usenko, L. K. Ackerman, J. E. Schrlau, N. L. Rose, T. F. Blett, and M. M. Erway. 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.

[NADP] National Atmospheric Deposition Program. 2010. National Atmospheric Deposition Program 2009 Annual Summary. NADP Data Report 2010-01. Illinois State Water Survey, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL.

Rao, L. E., Allen, E. B., Meixner, T. 2010. Risk-based determination of critical nitrogen deposition loads for fire spread in southern California deserts. Ecological Applications 20 (5): 1320–1335.

Saros, J. E., Clow, D. W., Blett, T., Wolfe, A. P. 2011. 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.

Sullivan, T. J., McDonnell, T. C., McPherson, G. T., Mackey, S. D., Moore, D. 2011a. 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., McDonnell, T. C., McPherson, G. T., Mackey, S. D., Moore, D. 2011b. Evaluation of the sensitivity of inventory and monitoring national parks to nutrient enrichment effects from atmospheric nitrogen deposition: Klamath Network (KLMN). Natural Resource Report NPS/NRPC/ARD/NRR—2011/330. National Park Service, Denver, Colorado. Available at http://www.nature.nps.gov/air/Pubs/pdf/n-sensitivity/klmn_n_sensitivity_2011-02.pdf (pdf, 6.8 MB).

Sullivan, T. J., McPherson, G. T., McDonnell, T. C., Mackey, S. D., Moore, D. 2011c. Evaluation of the sensitivity of inventory and monitoring national parks to acidification effects from atmospheric sulfur and nitrogen deposition: main report. Natural Resource Report NPS/NRPC/ARD/NRR—2011/349. National Park Service, Denver, Colorado. Available at http://www.nature.nps.gov/air/permits/aris/networks/acidification-eval.cfm.

Sullivan, T. J., McPherson, G. T., McDonnell, T. C., Mackey, S. D., Moore, D. 2011d. Evaluation of the sensitivity of inventory and monitoring national parks to acidification effects from atmospheric sulfur and nitrogen deposition: Klamath Network (KLMN). Natural Resource Report NPS/NRPC/ARD/NRR—2011/360. National Park Service, Denver, Colorado. Available at http://www.nature.nps.gov/air/Pubs/pdf/acidification/klmn_acidification-eval_2011-05.pdf (pdf, 2.6 MB).


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Pollutants including nitrogen, sulfur, mercury, ozone, and fine particles affect resources such as lakes, soils, and scenic vistas. Find out how on our Lassen Volcanic NP Air Pollution Impacts web page.

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Last Updated: December 19, 2011