A seasonal nitrogen deposition budget for Rocky Mountain National Park

  • Benedict K
  • Carrico C
  • Kreidenweis S
 et al. 
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Nitrogen deposition is a concern in many protected ecosystems around the world, yet few studies have quantified a complete reactive nitrogen deposition budget including all dry and wet, inorganic and organic compounds. Critical loads that identify the level at which nitrogen deposition negatively affects an ecosystem are often defined using incomplete reactive nitrogen budgets. Frequently only wet deposition of ammonium and nitrate are considered, despite the importance of other nitrogen deposition pathways. Recently, dry deposition pathways including particulate ammonium and nitrate and gas phase nitric acid have been added to nitrogen deposition budgets. However, other nitrogen deposition pathways, including dry deposition of ammonia and wet deposition of organic nitrogen, still are rarely included. In this study, a more complete seasonal nitrogen deposition budget was constructed based on observations during a year-long study period from November 2008 to November 2009 at a location on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), Colorado, USA. Measurements included wet deposition of ammonium, nitrate, and organic nitrogen, PM 2.5 (particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 lm, nitrate, and ammonium) concentrations of ammonium, nitrate, and organic nitrogen, and atmospheric gas phase concentrations of ammonia, nitric acid, and NO 2 . Dry deposition fluxes were determined from measured ambient concentrations and modeled deposition velocities. Total reactive nitrogen deposition by all included pathways was found to be 3.65 kg N·ha -1 yr -1 . Monthly deposition fluxes ranged from 0.06 to 0.54 kg N·ha -1 yr -1 , with peak deposition in the month of July and the least deposition in December. Wet deposition of ammonium and nitrate were the two largest deposition pathways, together contributing 1.97 kg N·ha -1 yr -1 or 54% of the total nitrogen deposition budget for this region. The next two largest deposition pathways were wet deposition of organic nitrogen and dry deposition of ammonia; combined they contributed 1.37 kg N·ha -1 yr -1 or 37% of the total nitrogen deposition budget. To better understand the nitrogen cycle and key interactions between the atmosphere and biosphere we need to include as many sources and types of nitrogen as possible and understand their variability throughout the year. Here we examine the components of the nitrogen deposition budget to better understand the factors that influence the different deposition pathways and their seasonal variations. © 2013 by the Ecological Society of America.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Ammonia
  • Atmospheric deposition
  • Dry deposition
  • Nitrogen
  • Organic nitrogen
  • Rocky Mountains
  • Wet deposition

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  • K.B. Benedict

  • C.M. Carrico

  • S.M. Kreidenweis

  • B. Schichtel

  • W.C. Malm

  • J.L. Collett Jr.

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