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How Pollution Is Affecting National Parks

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In Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, increasing nitrogen levels have resulted in grasses replacing some flowering plants.

A new report released this week by the National Parks Conservation Association found that nearly all of America’s national parks are dealing with significant air pollution.

The study looked at pollution in four areas: unhealthy air, harm to nature, hazy skies, and climate change. Using National Park Service data, researchers found that, overall, 96 percent of America’s 417 national park sites are significantly impacted in at least one of the categories. They found that 85 percent of parks have unhealthy air; pollution is harming nature in 88 percent of parks; 89 percent have haze pollution; and climate change is a significant concern for 80 percent.

This pollution negatively impacts the roughly 330 million people who visit America’s national parks each year, and has the potential to trigger asthma attacks or cause other health effects for certain vulnerable populations, such as children and the elderly. In addition to harmful inhalation for visitors, especially during peak visitation during the summer months, pollution has damaged waterways and wildlife habitats. The report mentions Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, where flowering plants are being replaced by grasses as a result of increasing nitrogen levels.

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