Input-output budgets of inorganic nitrogen for 24 forest watersheds in the Northeastern United States: A review

John L. Campbell, James W. Hornbeck, Myron J. Mitchell, Mary Beth Adams, Mark S. Castro, Charles T. Driscoll, Jeffrey S. Kahl, James N. Kochenderfer, Gene E. Likens, James A. Lynch, Peter S. Murdoch, Sarah J. Nelson, James B. Shanley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


Input-output budgets for dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) are summarized for 24 small watersheds at 15 locations in the northeastern United States. The study watersheds are completely forested, free of recent physical disturbances, and span a geographical region bounded by West Virginia on the south and west, and Maine on the north and east. Total N budgets are not presented; however, fluxes of inorganic N in precipitation and streamwater dominate inputs and outputs of N at these watersheds. The range in inputs of DIN in wet-only precipitation from nearby National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP) sites was 2.7 to 8.1 kg N ha-1 yr-1 (mean = 6.4 kg N ha-1 yr-1; median = 7.0 kg N ha-1 yr-1). Outputs of DIN in streamwater ranged from 0.1 to 5.7 kg N ha-1 yr-1 (mean = 2.0 kg N ha-1 yr-1; median = 1.7 kg N ha-1 yr-1). Precipitation inputs of DIN exceeded outputs in streamwater at all watersheds, with net retention of DIN ranging from 1.2 to 7.3 kg N ha-1 yr-1 (mean = 4.4 kg N ha-1 yr-1 ; median = 4.6 kg N ha-1 yr-1). Outputs of DIN in streamwater were predominantly NO3-N (mean = 89%; median = 94%). Wet deposition of DIN was not significantly related to DIN outputs in streamwater for these watersheds. Watershed characteristics such as hydrology, vegetation type, and land-use history affect DIN losses and may mask any relationship between inputs and outputs. Consequently, these factors need to be included in the development of indices and simulation models for predicting 'nitrogen saturation' and other ecological processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)373-396
Number of pages24
JournalWater, Air, and Soil Pollution
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Jan 2004


  • Ammonium
  • Input-output relationships
  • Nitrate
  • Nitrogen
  • Nitrogen saturation
  • Watersheds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Pollution


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