January 14, 2014
National Park Service
Preliminary results from a study in the Santa Monica Mountains show air pollution may increase the risk of wildfires, the National Park Service reported.
Researchers found that higher levels of nitrogen led to a decline in native shrub seedlings and an increase in nonnative grasses. Other studies have demonstrated a link between nonnative grasses and larger and more frequent wildfires, Park Service officials said.
It’s not surprising the data showed increased air pollution on the eastern end of the mountains, closer to Los Angeles, said Irina Irvine, restoration ecologist for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
“What’s more intriguing about this study is learning how high nitrogen levels affect native vegetation and what that might mean for fire risk in such a fire-prone region,” she said.
The results are from the first year of a three-year study by Irvine, and others from UC Riverside and the U.S. Forest Service. The study is funded by the Park Service’s Air Resources Division.
For more information, go to http://www.nps.gov/samo/parknews/prelim-nitrogen-deposition-results.htm.