Reducing wet ammonium deposition in Rocky Mountain National Park: The development and evaluation of a pilot early warning system for agricultural operations in eastern Colorado

Environmental Management
By: , and 

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Abstract

Agricultural emissions are the primary source of ammonia (NH3) deposition in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), a Class I area, that is granted special air quality protections under the Clean Air Act. Between 2014 and 2016, the pilot phase of the Colorado agricultural nitrogen early warning system (CANEWS) was developed for agricultural producers to voluntarily and temporarily minimize emissions of NH3 during periods of upslope winds. The CANEWS was created using trajectory analyses driven by outputs from an ensemble of numerical weather forecasts together with the climatological expertise of human forecasters. Here, we discuss the methods for the CANEWS and offer preliminary analyses of 33 months of the CANEWS based on atmospheric deposition data from two sites in RMNP as well as responses from agricultural producers after warnings were issued. Results showed that the CANEWS accurately predicted 6 of 9 high N deposition weeks at a lower-elevation observation site, but only 4 of 11 high N deposition weeks at a higher-elevation site. Sixty agricultural producers from 39 of Colorado’s agricultural operations volunteered for the CANEWS, and a two-way line of communication between agricultural producers and scientists was formed. For each warning issued, an average of 23 producers responded to a post-warning survey. Over 75% of responding CANEWS participants altered their practices after an alert. While the current effort was insufficient to reduce atmospheric deposition, we were encouraged by the collaborative spirit between agricultural, scientific, and resource management communities. Solving a broad and complex social-ecological problem requires both a technological approach, such as the CANEWS, and collaboration and trust from all participants, including agricultural producers, land managers, university researchers, and environmental agencies.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Reducing wet ammonium deposition in Rocky Mountain National Park: The development and evaluation of a pilot early warning system for agricultural operations in eastern Colorado
Series title Environmental Management
DOI 10.1007/s00267-019-01209-z
Edition Online First
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Fort Collins Science Center
Country United States
State Colorado