Present and future nitrogen deposition to national parks in the United States: Critical load exceedances

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Abstract

<p><strong>Abstract.</strong> National parks in the United States are protected areas wherein the natural habitat is to be conserved for future generations. Deposition of anthropogenic nitrogen (N) transported from areas of human activity (fuel combustion, agriculture) may affect these natural habitats if it exceeds an ecosystem-dependent critical load (CL). We quantify and interpret the deposition to Class I US national parks for present-day and future (2050) conditions using the GEOS-Chem global chemical transport model with 1/2° × 2/3° horizontal resolution over North America. We estimate CL values in the range 2.5–5 kg N ha<sup>−1</sup> yr<sup>−1</sup> for the different parks to protect the most sensitive ecosystem receptors. For present-day conditions, we find 24 out of 45 parks to be in CL exceedance and 14 more to be marginally so. Many of these are in remote areas of the West. Most (40–85%) of the deposition originates from NO<sub>x</sub> emissions (fuel combustion). We project future changes in N deposition using representative concentration pathway (RCP) anthropogenic emission scenarios for 2050. These feature 52–73% declines in US NO<sub>x</sub> emissions relative to present but 19–50% increases in US ammonia (NH<sub>3</sub>) emissions. Nitrogen deposition at US national parks then becomes dominated by domestic NH<sub>3</sub> emissions. While deposition decreases in the East relative to present, there is little progress in the West and increases in some regions. We find that 17–25 US national parks will have CL exceedances in 2050 based on the RCP8.5 and RCP2.6 scenarios. Even in total absence of anthropogenic NO<sub>x</sub> emissions, 14–18 parks would still have a CL exceedance. Returning all parks to N deposition below CL by 2050 would require at least a 50% decrease in US anthropogenic NH<sub>3</sub> emissions relative to RCP-projected 2050 levels.</p>

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APA

Ellis, R. A., Jacob, D. J., Sulprizio, M. P., Zhang, L., Holmes, C. D., Schichtel, B. A., … Lynch, J. A. (2013). Present and future nitrogen deposition to national parks in the United States: Critical load exceedances. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 13(17), 9083–9095. https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-13-9083-2013

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