Nitrogen pollution in the northeastern United States: Sources, effects, and management options

Charles T. Driscoll, David Whitall, John Aber, Elizabeth Boyer, Mark Castro, Christopher Cronan, Christine L. Goodale, Peter Groffman, Charles Hopkinson, Kathleen Lambert, Gregory Lawrence, Scott Ollinger

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

342 Scopus citations


The northeastern United States receives elevated inputs of anthropogenic nitrogen (N) largely from net imports of food and atmospheric deposition, with lesser inputs from fertilizer, net feed imports, and N fixation associated with leguminous crops. Ecological consequences of elevated N inputs to the Northeast include tropospheric ozone formation, ozone damage to plants, the alteration of forest N cycles, acidification of surface waters, and eutrophication in coastal waters. We used two models, PnET-BGC and WATERSN, to evaluate management strategies for reducing N inputs to forests and estuaries, respectively. Calculations with PnET-BGC suggest that aggressive reductions in N emissions alone will not result in marked improvements in the acid-base status of forest streams. WATERSN calculations showed that management scenarios targeting removal of N by wastewater treatment produce larger reductions in estuarine N loading than scenarios involving reductions in agricultural inputs or atmospheric emissions. Because N pollution involves multiple sources, management strategies targeting all major pollution sources will result in the greatest ecological benefits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)357-374
Number of pages18
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2003


  • Atmospheric deposition
  • Nitrogen management
  • Northeastern United States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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