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Great Basin National Park

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					Great Basin National Park




A mountain environment worth a
closer look…
Location
• E Nevada, Utah border
  Geographical context:
  varied themes to learn & explore
                              OSU profs atop Mt
                              Wheeler, 13,063 ft,
                              July 2005

• Arid land oasis:
   – Mountain water “tower”

• Climate change:                 B Mark samples
                                  spring at 9,774 ft.
   – Vertical gradients
   – Glacier response
   – Paleoenvironmental reconstruction

• Human – environment interactions
   – Ancient adaptation to modern conflict
                                                        D. Porinchu taking stock of
                                                        an alpine lake sediment core
Mountain environment
context
• Verticality & biodiversity
• Ecotones: desert to glacier
• Lakes
• Caves
Great Basin physiographic
province
   Tectonic setting


                                           • Thick crust
                                             plateau
                                           • Mantle plume,
                                             uplift
                                           • Tension
                                           • Extension
                                           • Normal fault,
                                             block rotation

http://home.att.net/~cochrans/naw014.htm
                                       Topography in
                                       extension




http://www.mala.bc.ca/~earles/strainus-feb00.htm
  Geology
• Cambrian sediments
                                    Glacial cirque
• Orogeny &
  metamorphism                                   Rock glacier

• Granites, garnets



     Stretched garnets in granite
                                              Ripple marks on
                                              metasedimentary
                                              rock
Bristlecone Pine
Pinus longaeva


• Oldest known tree species
• Currey Tree: 4844 yrs old
  in 1965, when it was
  chopped down by a
  geographer (!?!)
 Rock Glaciers:
 dynamics, climate response,
 hydrologic impact

• Motion & structure
• Melt & stream
  chemistry
• Metric
  photography
• Annual monitoring



Lehman rock glacier
photographed from Davis
peak; different oblique photos
comprise a 3D digital model
of surface topography
 Climate variability
• Arid region; vertical
  gradients
• After 5 years of
  drought, west had
  buffer precipitation
  2004-2005
• Was the Younger
  Dryas colder?

  Tree fall caused by snow
  avalanche; 2005
  snowpack was 300%
  normal!
Fremont Culture:
People, society, environment
dynamics over time

 • 1000-1300 A.D.
 • Petroglyphs, pottery,
   mocasins
 • Adaptation?
Lehman Creek
discharge
• 2005 highest means
• 2005 max peak flow
Great Basin
Watershed: Key Issues

• Population growth
• Water storage and delivery
• Water diversion
• Pollution
• Development



  “Southern Nevada is rich, running out of
  water, and not about to go away…”
 Western Water Wars
“Whisky’s for drinkin’, water’s for fightin’."


 •   Greater Las Vegas now has a population of 1.7 million, with about
     80,000 new residents added annually. It far outstrips any other U.S.
     city in employment growth, generating 76,000 new jobs last year
     alone
 •   Vegas gets 90 percent of its water from the Colorado and its
     tributaries and 10 percent from groundwater.
 •   Las Vegas' share of lower basin Colorado River water amounts to
     about 300, 000 acre-feet a year. That's it. NOT sustainable.
 •   An acre-foot is 1 acre of surface area covered by a foot of water, or
     about 326,000 gallons. A single acre-foot will provide water for two
     households per year.
 •   Las Vegas plans for diversion of Snake Range water; $2 billion
     pipeline is cheap
 •   Tapping aquifer’s obviously concerns ranchers in NV and UT
Johnson Lake Mining:
in-park case study
   • 1860’s gold rush
   • 1900 tungsten
   • Boom & bust: WWI demand;
     avalanche demise
   • Environmental impact?
 Great Basin Mine Watch
• Nevada is the world’s 3rd largest gold producer after S. Africa
  and Australia and in 2004, produced nearly 7 million ounces of
  gold worth more than $2.8 billion.




     http://www.greatbasinminewatch.org/mambo/
Environmental impact &
community response
          City of Ruth with mountain of
          mine tailings from the BHP
          Robinson copper mine behind it.
          Photo credit: GBMW


•   Ely and Ruth residents sought legal action against BHP Billiton
    after discovering that their groundwater was contaminated with
    high levels of nitrate.
•   The most likely sources for the nitrate contamination were the
    city of Ruth's sewage disposal ponds, which the mining company
    had built, or the mine's leaking tailing heaps since the heap water
    had extremely high nitrate readings.
•   Nevada Division of Environmental Protection had conducted
    tests at residential wells, and knew they contained high levels of
    nitrate that posed a significant health threat. Yet NDEP did not
    inform residents. Locals discovered what was making them ill
    after hiring a private lab to test their water. The mining company
    recently settled the lawsuit with the residents.
Mercury contamination?
        Mercury-emitting gold roaster at
        Newmont’s Gold Quarry Mine.
        Photo credit: Earthworks




   • With gold often comes mercury, which is naturally occurring in
     ore harvested from many Nevada mines.
   • Mercury is released into the air during roasting or other
     refining processes used to extract gold.
   • Mercury levels have been unregulated from open pit mining
     until 1990’s. First year of measurements was 1998. Levels are
     increasing.
   • EPA’s 2002 Toxic Release Inventory ranked Nevada as the
     highest emitter of mercury in the West other than Texas –
     primarily due to gold industry emissions
Other hazards &
multi-national
corporations
      Waste rock collapse at the Gold
      Quarry mine, which buried a
      state highway beneath 50 feet of
      rock and stopped just short of
      Maggie Creek. | Photo
      Source: Debra Reid/LightHawk

  •    In February, one of Newmont's 10-million ton waste rock dumps
       collapsed and slid across Nevada Highway 766.
  •    A slide of this proportion-covering the highway for the length of more
       than 4 football fields and up to 50 feet high-is the worst slope failure on
       record in the West, and represents a major failure on the part of the
       company to protect its workforce and the public from hazard.
  •    Denver-based Newmont, the world's largest gold mining company, has
       earned
       quite a reputation around the globe. Locals are resisting operations for
       public health horrors in Indonesia, Ghana, Turkey, and Peru.
  •    It's not the first time Nevada's mining regulatory system has been
       compared with those of third-world nations.
Come and see!!

Second OSU visit: 3-10 August 2006
Future field course?
If you have interest, or see research
potential, keep in touch!

				
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posted:10/29/2011
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