Why #ClimateChange May Spell Trouble For Rocky Mountain National Park Lakes — #Colorado Public Radio

Loch Vale photo via LandscapeImagery.com
Loch Vale photo via LandscapeImagery.com

From Colorado Public Radio (Grace Hood):

A U.S. Geological Survey ecologist who also works with Colorado State University, [Jill] Baron has spent much of her professional life collecting data and writing research papers on the Loch Vale Watershed, which includes two glaciers, lakes and streams inside Rocky Mountain National Park…

Back in 1982, Baron set up instruments at the Loch Vale Watershed to measure weather and stream flows. When she first started, she said climate change wasn’t front and center.
“It was acid rain. I think the sheer excitement of discovery got a lot of people into studying acid rain,” she said.

But instead of acid rain, she found nitrogen was falling out of the sky into the park. It was causing changes to the ecosystem.

Over the decades Baron has become a small-but-mighty character in the ecology world. An inch over 5 feet tall, she none the less has chosen a branch of science that’s physically demanding. It takes a lot of work to collect field samples every week. She’s even enlisted her two kids.

The long-term data she’s gathered at Loch Vale Watershed is highly valued because it’s been gathered over such a long period of time. Most recently, the Watershed contributed data to a 2015 scientific paper on global lakes and climate change. It found lakes are warming faster compared to air or ocean temperatures. The paper projected a 20 percent boost in lake algae around the globe in the next century.

“When you warm the water, it makes it easier for algae and bacteria to take up nutrients. So you get more nutrient cycling, you get more productivity,” said Baron.

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