To protect important resources under their bureau’s purview, the United States National Park Service’s (NPS) Arctic Network (ARCN) has developed a series of “vital signs” that are to be periodically monitored. One of these vital signs focuses on wet and dry deposition of atmospheric chemicals and further, the establishment of critical load (CL) values (thresholds for ecological effects based on cumulative depositional loadings) for nitrogen (N), sulfur, and metals. As part of the ARCN terrestrial monitoring programs, samples of the feather moss Hylocomium splendens are being col- lected and analyzed as a cost-effective means to monitor atmospheric pollutant deposition in this region. Ultimately, moss data combined with refined CL values might be used to help guide future regulation of atmospheric contaminant sources potentially impacting Arctic Alaska. But first, additional long-term studies are needed to determine patterns of contaminant deposition as measured by moss biomonitors and to quantify ecosystem responses at particular loadings/ ranges of contaminants within Arctic Alaska. Herein we briefly summarize 1) current regulatory guidance related to CL values 2) derivation of CL models for N and metals, 3) use of mosses as biomonitors of atmospheric deposition and loadings, 4) preliminary analysis of vulnerabilities and risks associated with CL estimates for N, 5) preliminary analysis of existing data for characterization of CL values for N for interior Alaska and 6) implications for managers and future research needs.
Additional publication details
Atmospheric deposition and critical loads for nitrogen and metals in Arctic Alaska: Review and current status