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but the agreement does not specifically address waters with possible geothermal connections. Wyoming has only settled rights for a small portion of the park and has no agreements that address geothermal resources (Harting and Glick 1994).


This research illustrates how vulnerable geyser basins are to the effects of human activities. At least half of the major areas around the world that contain geysers have been impacted to varying degrees by human activities and countless minor ther- mal features have been lost. Those that remain are potentially threatened by growing populations, tourism, increasing devel- opment, the growing demand for energy, and the relative ease by which geothermal energy is developed. Even thermal fea- tures in Yellowstone are potentially endangered by geothermal energy development along park boundaries and by tourism in the park, despite the fact that the park has had protected sta- tus since 1872. As the analysis of Yellowstone has suggested, preservation-oriented management and public education can perhaps relieve some of these negative effects, but we need to be increasingly vigilant and aggressive in protecting these rare and special features.

This review indicates the the tremendous need for widespread monitoring of geothermal resources in order to monitor existing resources and assess future human impacts. Unfortunately, many geyser basins of the world have not been carefully inventoried nor are they monitored to help protect them from potentially destructive future impacts.

Yellowstone has perhaps the most aggressive inventorying and monitoring program for any large geothermal region in the world. Yellowstone’s Thermal Inventory Project contains more than 11,000 thermal features sampled by ground survey crews each summer since 1998. The project was designed to inven- tory Yellowstone’s thermal features spatially using Geographic Information Systems, and contains sampling data about acid- ity and temperature.

Congress funded geothermal monitoring projects for Yel- lowstone in 1996 and again in 2005, resulting in strategies that greatly improved monitoring efforts. Yellowstone scien- tists monitor and assess geothermal activity through indica- tors such as chloride flux measurements in streams draining thermal areas, groundwater inventories, and thermal remote sensing. Yellowstone is also engaged in cutting-edge geother- mal monitoring studies including isotope and environmental tracers of thermal water to determine flowpaths, groundwater flow characteristics as determined from shallow wells, heat flow of hydrothermal areas from airborne thermal infrared imaging, and geochemical studies of hydrothermal basin-scale convec- tive heat flow (Heasler pers. comm. 2008). These multiple methods of data collection, monitoring, and assessment pro- vide the baseline data necessary to detect change due to natural and anthropogenic causes, but they can be labor intensive and

are often costly.,

In addition, Yellowstone is actively involved in protecting thermal features on a daily basis. Interpreters educate visitors and also warn visitors of improper actions. Law enforcement rangers aggressively protect thermal areas and park mainte- nance staff work to minimize impacts to thermal features from infrastructure development.

Much of the problem with protecting geysers around the world lies in the difficulty of measuring and quantifying a dynamic system whose origins lie beneath Earth’s surface. Insufficient documentation creates problems for protection because it is difficult to protect something that one does not know about. People in many areas have failed to recognize the fragility of these features, their rarity, and the need to pro- tect them for future generations. This research documents and explains changes due to geothermal energy and tourist devel- opment, but it does not discuss the human values associated with the landscape that ultimately direct the path to protection or development. These aesthetic, cultural, spiritual, ecologi- cal, and economic values will ultimately determine how much effort is expended on geothermal protection, development, and monitoring. Yellowstone National Park is thus the most critical area in the world for protecting geothermal resources into the future because of the tremendous number of features within its boundaries and the park’s international prominence in helping the public develop a deeper appreciation for geo- thermal features, their scarcity, and their fragility.

Note: One of the problems we faced in compiling this research was the paucity of scientic literature on geysers outside of Yellowstone. Many of these areas are poorly documented in English language publications. T. Scott Bryan, in his popular book The Geysers of Yellowstone, relies on personal travels, records, and anecdotal accounts to generate a global map of locations where geyser activ- ity has been reported historically. In many cases, Bryan was the only documentation we found.


We would like to thank many contributors to this work. the initial inspiration for this work came from a speech by then Yellowstone Center for Resources director John Varley given to the Annual Meeting of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition outlining the rarity of geysers, the lack of data on non-Yellowstone geysers, and the tre- mendous need to protect Yellowstone’s geothermal features. James e. Meacham provided guidance on content and graphics in this arti- cle. Ann Rodman and Carrie Guiles from the Spatial Analysis Center at Yellowstone National Park as well as other National Park Service staff provided data and invaluable information about Yellowstone and also helped to fact check the data for the Yellowstone maps. Yellow- stone National Park Geologist henry heasler reviewed the article and offered important insights. Communications with t. Scott Bryan and members of the Geyser observation and Study Association and the Geyser email list-server offered information, advice, and refer- ences. the dedication of all these individuals to understanding and protecting geothermal features the world over and in Yellowstone in particular provided the inspiration for this work.

17(1) • 2009

ellowstone Science


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