The purpose of this work was to determine the contribution made by atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition to the total N input to 10 estuaries on the east coast of the United States. We estimated the amount of N fixed by human activities in the watersheds (N fertilization, biotic N2 fixation by legumes and pastures, atmospheric N deposition, and net food and feed import of N) of these 10 estuaries and used a land-use specific approach to estimate the N available for transport to the estuary from different watershed N sources (runoff from agriculture, urban areas and upland forests, point sources, and atmospheric deposition). Total atmospheric N inputs (watershed runoff plus direct deposition to the surface of estuary) accounted for 15-42% of the total N inputs to these 10 estuaries. Direct deposition to the surface of the estuary was an important atmospheric N source for four estuaries, accounting for 35-50% of the total atmospheric N inputs. Simulated reductions of atmospheric N deposition by 25% and 50% of current deposition rates reduced the contribution made by atmospheric N deposition to the total N loads by 1-6% and 2-11%, respectively. Largest reductions occurred in estuaries with direct atmospheric N deposition contributions >35% of the total atmospheric N input. Results from our simulated reductions suggest that considerable reductions (>25%) in atmospheric N deposition will be needed to significantly reduce the contribution made by atmospheric N deposition to the total N loads to our study estuaries. In addition, reductions in atmospheric N deposition will first be detected in estuaries with relatively high direct deposition inputs of atmospheric N deposition.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry