Air pollution abatement strategies for controlling nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and ozone emissions in the United States focus on a ‘standards-based’ approach. This approach places limits on air pollution by maintaining a baseline value for air quality, no matter what the ecosystem can or cannot withstand. In this paper, we present example critical levels maps for the conterminous U.S. developed using the ‘effects-based’ mapping approach as defined by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe's Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution, Task Force on Mapping. This approach emphasizes the pollution level or load capacity an ecosystem can accommodate before degradation occurs, and allows for analysis of cumulative effects. We present the first stage of an analysis that reports the distribution of exceedances of critial levels for NO2, SO2, and O3 in sensitive forest, crop, and natural vegetation ecosystems in the contiguous United States. We conclude that extrapolation to surrounding geographic areas requires the analysis of diverse and compounding factors that preclude simple extrapolation methods. Pollutant data depicted in this analysis is limited to locationally specific data, and would be enhanced by utilizing spatial statistics, along with converging associated anthropogenic and climatological factors. Values used for critical levels were derived from current scientific knowledge. While not intended to be a definitive value, adjustments will occur as the scientific community gains new insight to pollutant/receptor relationships. We recommend future analysis to include a refinement of sensitive receptor data coverages and to report relative proportions of exceedances at varying grid scales.
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The research described in this manuscript has been funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This document was prepared at the EPA Environmental Research Laboratory in Corvallis, Oregon through contract # 68-C8-0006 to ManTech Environmental Technology Inc. It has been subjected to the Agency's peer and administrative review and approved for publication. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.
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Rosenbaum, B.J., Strickland, T.C. & Mcdowell, M.K. Mapping critical levels of ozone, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide for crops, forests and natural vegetation in the United States. Water Air Soil Pollut 74, 307–319 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00479797