Empirical critical loads of atmospheric nitrogen deposition for nutrient enrichment and acidification of sensitive US lakes

Jill S. Baron, Charles T. Driscoll, John L. Stoddard, Eric E. Richer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations

Abstract

The ecological effects of elevated atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition on high-elevation lakes of the western and northeastern United States include nutrient enrichment and acidification. The nutrient enrichment critical load for western lakes ranged from 1.0 to 3.0 kilograms (kg) of N per hectare (ha) per year, reflecting the nearly nonexistent watershed vegetation in complex, snowmelt-dominated terrain. The nutrient enrichment critical load for northeastern lakes ranged from 3.5 to 6.0 kg N per ha per year. The N acidification critical loads associated with episodic N pulses in waters with low values of acid neutralizing capacity were 4.0 kg N per ha per year (western) and 8.0 kg N per ha per year (northeastern). The empirical critical loads for N-caused acidification were difficult to determine because of a lack of observations in the West, and high sulfur deposition in the East. For both nutrient enrichment and acidification, the N critical load was a function of how atmospheric N deposition was determined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)602-613
Number of pages12
JournalBioScience
Volume61
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2011

Keywords

  • acidification
  • critical load
  • lakes
  • nitrogen
  • nutrient enrichment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences

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