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Air Issues amd Ecosystem Protection, a Canadian National Parks Perspective

  • Welch, David1
  • 1 Physical Sciences Advisor, Natural Resources Branch, Parks Canada, 25 Eddy Street, Room 4-377, Hull, Québec, K1A 0M5, Canada , Hull
Published Article
Environmental Monitoring and Assessment
Publication Date
Feb 01, 1998
DOI: 10.1023/A:1005842825220
Springer Nature


Several case histories illustrate national park air issues and responses in Canada. These examples include: acidification studies and establishment of a multiparticipant monitoring programme at Kejimkujik; studies of smoke at campgrounds in Jasper, La Mauricie and Forillon, its effect on health, and the management of visitors and firewood supply to mitigate these risks; and estimates of emissions from through-traffic in Yoho. From these cases and from reviews of the secondary literature, we can identify air issues that affect the maintenance of ecological integrity in national parks. These issues are: forest fires and smoke management; defining goals for ecosystem restoration; representation of natural regional conditions; visitor health and amenity; acidification; pesticides; eutrophication from airborne nitrates; permafrost melting; and UV-B. In June 1995, an International Air Issues Workshop brought together representatives from Canadian and U.S. national parks and other selected agencies. They ranked the air issues affecting national parks, producing quite an eclectic list. From the most to least serious issue, they are: acidification, toxics, visibility impairment, UV-B, smoke management, oil and gas development, fugitive dust, global warming, overflights, light pollution, noise and odour. Note that atmospheric change is only one among a group of stresses affecting national parks. Of 28 stresses recognized as significant for national parks in 1992, acid precipitation ranked 8th and climate change 23rd. Petrochemicals, 17th, pesticides, 18th and heavy metals, 21st, may be partly airborne. The 1995 workshop made several recommendations applicable to Parks Canada, from which those related to research and monitoring needs have been extracted. The air monitoring needed most by national parks is of suspended particulate and visibility. This is in response to human health and amenity concerns and international treaty obligations. The long-term protection of natural sites in national parks provides opportunities for other agencies to monitor ambient air quality and ecosystem responses, for example through the installation of under-canopy monitoring towers. The air research most needed in national parks is the modelling of natural landscapes and vegetation complexes in response to climate change. This follows from the primary purpose of each national park, to maintain the ecological integrity of an area selected to represent a natural region. The principal air research opportunities for other agencies in national parks are probably intensive instrumentation and sampling over several years to examine the air-vegetation-soil transfers of nutrients, pollutants and radiation.

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