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    Author(s): Jill A. McMurray; Dave W. Roberts; Mark E. Fenn; Linda H. Geiser; Sarah Jovan
    Date: 2013
    Source: Water, Air, and Soil Pollution. 224(3): 1487.
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Pacific Southwest Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (500.56 KB)

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    Lichen Indicate Air Quality Near Natural Gas Wells


    Rapid expansion of natural gas drilling in Sublette County, WY (1999-present), has raised concerns about the potential ecological effects of enhanced atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition to the Wind River Range (WRR) including the Class I BridgerWilderness. We sampled annual throughfall (TF) N deposition and lichen thalli N concentrations under forest canopies in four different drainages of the WRR. Measurements of TF N deposition and N concentrations in lichen thalli were highest at plots closest to drilling operations (<30 km). N concentrations in lichens decreased exponentially with distance fromdrilling activity. Highest TF N deposition, 4.1 kgha-1year-1, coincided with clear evidence of damage to lichen thalli. This deposition value is above estimated preindustrial deposition conditions (0.9 kgN ha-1year-1) and regional critical loads (a deposition value below which ecosystem harm is prevented) of N deposition for sensitive ecosystem components. N concentrations in Usnea lapponica were strongly correlated (r=0.96) with TF N deposition, demonstrating that elemental analysis of lichen material can be used to estimate TF N deposition. N concentrations below 1.35 % in U. lapponica and 1.12 % in Letharia vulpina were associated with estimated background conditions of 0.9 kgN ha-1year-1. Additional lichen sampling in the Bridger Wilderness is recommended to further quantify and monitor spatial patterns of N deposition and to define areas of elevated N deposition.

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    McMurray, Jill A.; Roberts, Dave W.; Fenn, Mark E.; Geiser, Linda H.; Jovan, Sarah. 2013. Using epiphytic lichens to monitor nitrogen deposition near natural gas drilling operations in the Wind River Range, WY, USA. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution. 224(3): 1487.


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    oil and gas development, lichens, throughfall nitrogen deposition, critical loads, monitoring, wilderness

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