Nitrogen Pollution's Effect on Alpine Plants | Natural Health Blog

Pollution’s Effect on Vegetation

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A recent study has found that nitrogen gases reach even the relatively remote regions of the park and have begun to set in motion changes that will eventually lead to the disappearance of the alpine vegetation unless some drastic measures are taken.

“Thank God, men cannot fly and lay waste the sky as well as the earth” — Henry David Thoreau

Many people are taking trips to Alaska to see the glaciers before they all melt from global warming.  If viewing that kind of natural beauty before time runs out is on your bucket list, you may want to pay a visit to the Rocky Mountain National Park in northern Colorado, as well.  No glacier melting here, but recent research has found that man-made air pollution may be killing off the indigenous vegetation that has always grown there.1

The study, by a team of scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder, found that nitrogen gases reach even the relatively remote regions of the park and have begun to set in motion changes that will eventually lead to the disappearance of the alpine plants unless some drastic measures are taken.  This air pollution is created by the emissions of nearby vehicular traffic, power plants, and even agricultural machinery.

Over a three-year period, the researchers tested the soil and alpine plants in a meadow of Rocky Mountain National Park in the Mummy Range area.  They measured the present levels of nitrogen decomposition and assessed their effects, then “created” areas with increasing levels of nitrogen to simulate the modifications in the atmosphere that will occur in coming years unless something changes.  First, it should be noted that at the present levels of nitrogen pollution, the soil analyzed showed no changes, but then that level has already done its damage; the quantity of certain plant species is already measurably different than it was just a few years ago.

As beautiful as it still may be, the no-longer pristine area definitely has been negatively affected by a higher concentration of nitrogen pollution.  There is now major growth of sedge plants, which are a common form of grass.2  That’s a negative, because these species have been demonstrated in other pollution studies in several locations to thrive in higher levels of nitrogen3 — to flourish, keep expanding, and eventually crowd out more delicate forms of wild vegetation.

And in the foreseeable future, there is no reason to expect any changes for the better to pollution levels.  In fact, the Denver area is expected to have continued population growth that will keep spilling into the Front Range region close to the park.  This is likely to be accompanied by more agricultural development, which brings atmospheric changes of its own, along with more automobiles, and a rise in production of the local power supply in coming decades.

While it may be easy for some to say that we’ve got many more urgent problems to deal with than a few changes in plant species, it’s important to keep the larger picture in mind.  Once this goes beyond a certain point in altering the vegetation, there is no turning back.  The changes that take place will also affect more than just the “look” of Rocky Mountain National Park.  The new plants that begin to grow there may have a higher tolerance for nitrogen, but eventually even these plants and soil will reach their capacity for absorbing these compounds.  At that point, acidification takes place and causes aluminum to seep from the soil.  Where does the aluminum end up?  In all of the local water!  Aluminum is a toxic substance for which the body has no use. Not only will it poison the water and most of the marine life in all of the nearby streams and lakes, but it will begin to directly affect humans. As it accumulates in the body, it can harm the bones, gastrointestinal tract, brain, skin, liver, and much more.4

It is essential to avoid heavy metals such as aluminum as much as possible.  However, since they enter our food and water supply to some degree wherever we are — and are likely to be increasing — we need to remove them from our bodies — and especially if things keep heading in the direction they’re going.  Herbal colon detoxifiers and heavy metal cleanses used routinely can clear these dangerous substances out of your system and improve your health.  To find out more about the damage that can be done by aluminum and other heavy metals and how to remove them, read Jon Barron’s report on Clinically Proven Oral Chelation.

1 “Nitrogen pollution changing Rocky Mountain National Park vegetation, says CU-Boulder study.” University of Colorado. 5 July 2012. Accessed 25 July 2012. <http://www.colorado.edu/news/releases/2012/07/05/nitrogen-pollution-changing-rocky-mountain-national-park-vegetation-says-cu>.

2 Brand, Mark. “Grasses, rushes, and sedges, oh my! ” Fine Gardening. Accessed 26 July 2012. <http://www.finegardening.com/plants/qa/grasses-rushes-sedges.aspx>.

3 “Nitrogen pollution alters global change scenarios from the ground up.” e! Science News. 30 June 2010. Accessed 26 July 2012. <http://esciencenews.com/articles/2010/06/30/nitrogen.pollution.alters.global.change.scenarios.ground>.

4 “Dangers of Aluminum.” Global Healing Center. Accessed 26 July 2012. <http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/heavy-metals/dangers-of-aluminum>.

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