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Sci 256

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When you’re considering North Carolina, The Appalachian Mountains are very bio-diverse regions in the world that would include latitude, altitude, topsoil types, immediacy seaside, and geologic time have gather for the advancement of numerous types of vegetation and animals. Many of the types are mutual across the globe yet some are prevalent to a handful of remote mountains in the vicinity. The most feasible way gain knowledge of this way of living is by alpinism.
The setting around these mountains is immensely different, and includes various trees, bushes, and other foliage. Heavy rains spread evenly during the year and allow vegetation to survive. The budding starts in March for particular plants but carry on well up until November. Nevertheless, when you increase in altitude, seasons reduce significantly. Subsequently, forest communities travel up mountain sides and look like those that you’d encounter while traveling up to the northern areas.
It's not exceptional to come across a multitude of different wildlife while in NC. In the Great Smoky Mountains, there are over 60 species not to forget bears, deer, and elk. You could quite possibly catch an opossum traveling across the road or highway and perchance a red squirrel will watch you from high up in a tree. If you're fortunate, or maybe even unfortunate, you may perhaps catch view of a bear. Mention of bears always raises a safety concern and although most animals in the wild are afraid of humans, it is imperative to be very aware of your surroundings. You should steer clear of strange animals since rabies could be the culprit. Elk and deer are very powerful, and although they most often will not attack, instead they try and protect themselves and their young.
Near the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains on the eastern end of the United States lies one of the most beautiful treasures mother earth has to offer. The 521,000 acre area of land deemed Smokey Mountain National Park on the Tennessee/North Carolina border got its prestigious status as priority one protected park in 1926 for many reasons. The park, made famous by wispy apparition like clouds that descend from the atmosphere into its scattered valleys, is also home to a extremely diverse and fragile ecosystem. An estimated 4,000 species of plant life are present as well as an abundance of wildlife including one of the highest Black Bear concentrations in the U.S. In present time, the Park has taken on yet another value, as a tourist attraction. An estimated nine million people explore within the parks boundaries and set a foot on some of the oldest mountains in the world.

Sadly, the humbling beauty of the park doesn’t have the ability to reveal to the average visitor that there is a serious manmade force threatening to disable the functioning of the entire ecosystem and harm anyone who recreates or lives near its vicinity.

A novice to the area many not notice it, but someone who has frequented the parks scenic sites will tell you that you used to be able see a lot farther. What is it that is distorting views on otherwise clear days? The answer, sulfur and nitrogen forms of air pollution generated consistently from several sources. As well as altering the parks famous skies, it is now widely confirmed that the pollution above the park is having serious adverse effects on the plant and animal life below, and is even a growing concern for the humans in and around the park.

The air pollution that masses around the park comes in a few forms and has many sources. Outdated (grandfather) power plants west and even north of the Smokey’s that emit massive amounts of sulfur and nitrogen oxides are primarily at fault for the degraded situation in the park. Emissions from automobiles are also to blame. The parks close proximity to several metropolitan areas as well as the millions of park visitors who are transported to and from by cars contribute to the problem as well.

The parks geographic location is a major factor in the situation. Natural wind patterns traveling west to east carry pollutants from all over the country, then the height of the mountains, physical makeup of the area, and being located relatively close to the ocean help contain the pollution for prolonged time around the Smokey’s.

The pollution variable affects the park and humans in numerous ways. The acid rain that falls as a result of the elevated nitrogen and sulfur levels is currently damaging several components of the sensitive ecosystem such as; old growth trees, soil, vegetation, ground water etc. The average (pH) of rainfall in the park is 5-10 times higher than normal rainfall, and clouds with even lower acidic levels interact with high elevation habitat on some spring days. Along with the ecosystem, the park as a tourist entity is on a negative slope. People come from all over to see the land in its natural beauty, not to see it dying as it has begun to. The spectacular views that were once available are now severely distorted. Air pollution has reduced visibility on a normal day from 100 miles to 25 miles, and even being reduced to less than 1 mile on extreme occasions. The rotten air is not only depriving the soul of wondrous sights, it has potential to have harmful effects on your lungs. Nitrogen created ozone at ground level is harmful to the body, and ozone levels in the park are amongst the highest in the country, even more so than most urban metropolitan areas. In the summer of 2002, the park experienced 42 unhealthy air days where ozone levels were harmful to humans. The park now issues pollution advisories to visitors during bad days. A once pristine national park informing of lung damaging air is sure to dishearten many park goers.

This was beginning to be a problem back in 1970, so Congress passed the Clean Air Act to prevent any future air quality problems and fix the ones that were present. Over thirty years later and the situation has only gotten worse. Apparently, some of the energy industries most pollutant plants found a loop hole to continue business without reforming, and are now producing increasing amounts of energy for increasing amounts of people who are driving automobiles at an increasing rate. It is obvious to many concerned citizens that a solution must be found. Some people are already doing something. Bill Taylor introduced The Great Smokey Mountains Clean Air Act in 2000. The act, which is currently before the House Subcommittee, is basically just another push for power plants to reduce their emissions. Optimism isn’t overwhelming for this bill as the original Clean Air Act has not been able to achieve its goals of protecting the parks and our health. Currently, the Southern Appalachian Mountain Initiative (SAMI) is preparing solutions to improve air quality.

This topic is crucial and is in a dire need of a solution. One of America’s oldest spectacles is being driven to the brink of failure by a powerful industry that is not looking out for the values of this great land. Hopefully pressure from an increasingly aware public and reduction in technology costs will help aide this problem.

I chose this topic for a few reasons. I have been an intense outdoorsman since some of my first memories at my cabin. And one of my favorite pastimes is simply breathing in crisp, clean air in a wilderness setting. So I am naturally intrigued and concerned about this issue.

As for my opinion, wow…..how much time you got? I think the fact that virtually no environmental topics such as this one are presented in the media while the Michael Jackson court case gets around the clock coverage is a reflection of values in our society. Many Americans don’t care about what they eat or how much they exercise, so why would they care about the air they breathe at a park. None the less, I hope for a resolution to this problem as we work to generate alternative energy sources.

I believe the information in my sources was fairly accurate as far as general concepts of the issue go, statistics tended to vary a little though and some web sites were possibly a bit biased.

Reference citations:

Book Chapter: Cunningham, William P. Cunningham, Mary-Ann Climate and Pollution Principles of Environmental Science. McGraw Hill, 2004. 194-223
www.smokiesinformation.org…...

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