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Bandelier National Monument Air Quality Information


Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico
Bandelier National Monument (NM), located on the Pajarito Plateau in north-central New Mexico, was created in 1916 to protect the ancestral Pueblo dwellings in the area. In 1976, a large portion of the 32,737-acre monument was designated as Wilderness, in recognition of its unique and valuable natural resources. In 1977, the monument was designated a Class I air quality area, receiving the highest protection from air pollution. The climate is semi-arid and dominant vegetation communities include pinyon pine-juniper woodlands, ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forests, with openings of grassland, montane meadow, and aspen groves. Surface water is seasonally restricted to the upper portions of the canyon systems with only Rito del los Frijoles perennial to the Rio Grande which forms the eastern boundary of the monument.

Both local and distant air pollutant sources affect air quality in the monument. Large power plants and several gas processing facilities in nearby San Juan and McKinley counties are the largest nearby point sources of both sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Vehicles in the Santa Fe and Albuquerque metropolitan areas are also significant sources of nitrogen oxides. Emissions from these sources result in deposition of nitrogen and sulfur compounds in the monument; in addition, nitrogen oxides sources contribute to the formation of ozone that may affect air quality in the monument.

The air quality related values (AQRVs) of Bandelier NM are those resources that are potentially sensitive to air pollution, and include vegetation, wildlife, water quality, soils, visibility, and cultural resources.

At present, visibility has been identified as the most sensitive AQRV in the park. Visibility in the park is often impaired by light-scattering pollutants (haze). As part of the Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments (IMPROVE) network, visual air quality in Bandelier NM has been monitored using an aerosol sampler (March 1988 through the present), transmissometer (1988 through the present), and 35mm camera (1982 - 1985 and 1987 - 1995). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's new Regional Haze regulations require improving visibility in Class I air quality areas on both the best visibility (i.e., the 20 percent clearest days) and the worst visibility days (i.e., the 20 percent haziest days). An analysis of 1990-1999 data indicates that visibility has not significantly degraded or improved during that period.

Chemistry data indicate that surface waters in the monument are well-buffered and, therefore, not likely to be acidified by atmospheric deposition. Soils are also likely to well-buffered. There is no information available on the long-term effects (e.g., fertilization) of nitrogen deposition on waters or soils in the monument. In some parts of the country, nitrogen deposition has caused changes in soil nutrient cycling and vegetation species composition.

Wet deposition has been monitored in Bandelier NM since 1982 as part of the National Atmospheric Deposition Program/National Trends Network (NADP/NTN). The site ID is NM07. Rates of atmospheric deposition of nitrogen and sulfur in rain are relatively low in Bandelier. Trend lines developed by NADP indicate that since the early 1980's, wet sulfur deposition has decreased. Wet nitrate deposition has decreased somewhat, but wet ammonium deposition has increased slightly; as a result, total inorganic wet nitrogen deposition (nitrate plus ammonium) has stayed relatively constant.

Representative dry deposition data are not available for Bandelier NM.

Several plant species that occur in Bandelier NM are known to be sensitive to atmospheric ozone (e.g., aspen, Populus tremuloides) although the specific genotypes found in the monument have not been tested under controlled conditions for sensitivity.

Ozone-induced foliar injury has been documented on sensitive park vegetation during field surveys and in controlled fumigation studies. Physiological effects were also noted in the fumigation studies.

Ozone concentrations were monitored in Bandelier NM from 1990-1994. The concentrations measured fell within a range that may produce visible injury or growth effects on sensitive plant species. Ozone concentrations may be increasing; an analysis of 1990-1999 data indicate that, for several parks in the region (Grand Canyon, Canyonlands, and Mesa Verde NP's), concentrations have significantly increased. Vegetation in the park has not been evaluated systematically for ozone injury.

Sulfur dioxide concentrations were monitored from 1988-1992. Measured values were far below any threshold of suggested sensitivity for any plants.

Cultural resources in Bandelier NM may be sensitive to deposition of atmospheric pollutants. Limited research from Mesa Verde NP suggests that the mineralogy of the sandstone comprising many ancestral Pueblo structures in the region may be susceptible to acidic compounds, including sulfates and nitrates from the atmosphere.

Additional information relative to air quality and air quality related values at Bandelier NM is available in D. Binkley et al. 1997. Status of Air Quality and Related Values in Class I National Parks and Monuments of the Colorado Plateau. National Park Service. Denver, CO.

updated on 03/10/2008  I   http://www2.nature.nps.gov/air/permits/aris/BAND/index.cfm   I  Email: Webmaster