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
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 expertize 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 postwarning 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.
KeywordsEarly warning system Agriculture ammonia/ammonium Wet nitrogen deposition Weather modeling Mountain meteorology Rocky Mountain National Park
This paper is based upon work supported by National Science Foundation IGERT Grant No. DGE-0966346 “I-WATER: Integrated Water, Atmosphere, Ecosystems Education and Research Program” at Colorado State University and the National Park Service under award P13AC00599, project CSURM-273. We would also like to thank the Center for Multiscale Modeling of Atmospheric Processes at Colorado State University for their support for this study. We also thank Kristi Morris, Kathy Lambert, and anonymous reviewers for their comments to improve the quality of this paper. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. The Pilot Early Warning System would not have been possible without the vision and tireless efforts of WBF.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
- Baron JS (1992) Biogeochemistry of a subalpine ecosystem: Loch Vale Watershed. In: Ecological studies 90. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Davis JG, Marcillac NM, Elliott AL, Pritchett JG, Stewart CE (2007) Best management practices (BMPs) for ammonia emissions reduction from animal feeding operations: update on a Colorado case study. In: International Symposium on Air Quality and Waste Management for Agriculture. American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. Broomfield, CO, p 43Google Scholar
- Embertson N, Davis J (2009) Efficacy of best management practices for ammonia reduction on feedlots and dairies. In: Western Section, Vol 60. American Society of Animal Sciences. Champaign, IL, pp 96–99Google Scholar
- Li Y, Schichtel BA, Walker JT, Schwede DB, Chen X, Lehmann CM, Puchalski MA, Gay DA, Collett Jr JL (2016) Increasing importance of deposition of reduced nitrogen in the United States. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 201525736:1–6.Google Scholar
- Malm WC, Collett Jr JL, Barna MG, Gebhart KA, Schichtel BA, Beem K, Carrico CM, Day DE, Hand JL, Kreidenweis SM, Lee T, Levin EJT, McDade CE, McMeeking GR, Molenar JV, Raja S, Rodriguez MA, Schwandner F, Sullivan AP, Taylor C (2009) RoMANS: Rocky Mountain Atmospheric Nitrogen and Sulfur Study Report. ISSN 0737-5352-84, CIRA (Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere). Colorado State University, Fort Collins, ColoradoGoogle Scholar
- Markowski P, Richardson Y (2011) Mesoscale meteorology in midlatitudes, 2nd edn. Wiley, New JerseyGoogle Scholar
- Morris K (2018) 2016 data summary of wet nitrogen deposition at Rocky Mountain National Park. Natural Resource Report NPS/NRSS/ARD/NRR—2018/1610. National Park Service, Fort Collins, ColoradoGoogle Scholar
- Rodriguez MA, Barna MG, Gebhart KA, Hand JL, Adelman ZE, Schichtel BA, Collett Jr JL, Malm WC (2011) Modeling the fate of atmospheric reduced nitrogen during the Rocky Mountain Atmospheric Nitrogen and Sulfur Study (RoMANS): performance evaluation and diagnosis using integrated processes rate analysis. Atmos Environ 45:223–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Rotz C (2004) Management to reduce nitrogen losses in animal production. J Anim Sci 82:E119–E137Google Scholar
- Vitousek PM, Aber JD, Howarth RW, Likens GE, Matson PA, Schindler DW, Schlesinger WH, Tilman DG (1997) Human alteration of the global nitrogen cycle: sources and consequences. Ecol Appl 7:737–750Google Scholar