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Picture of the Day

Alpine ecosystems struggle to recover from air pollution

What happens to high mountain ecosystems when you take away air pollution? Not much, not very quickly. A new National Science Foundation-funded research study finds that degraded alpine ecosystems showed limited recovery years after long-term inputs of human-caused nitrogen air pollution, with soil acidification and effects on biodiversity lingering even after a decade of much lower nitrogen input levels. The study indicates that even a dramatic reduction in nitrogen emissions may not be sufficient to reverse changes to various ecosystem processes after decades of high exposure. Overall, the researchers found that vegetation recovery was more limited in the areas that had received the highest levels of nitrogen previously, even after gaining a reprieve in subsequent years. Bacteria and fungi abundances also remained lowered and soil remained acidic, indicating sustained impacts that cannot be easily reversed.

Visit Website | Image credit: William Bowman/University of Colorado, Boulder