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This article in JEQ

    Received: Feb 22, 2014
    Published: August 8, 2014

    * Corresponding author(s): michelle.mccrackin@vancouver.wsu.edu


Future Riverine Nitrogen Export to Coastal Regions in the United States: Prospects for Improving Water Quality

  1. Michelle L. McCrackin *ab,
  2. John A. Harrisonb and
  3. Jana E. Comptonc
  1. a National Research Council, National Academies of Science, Washington, DC 20001
    b School of the Environment, Washington State Univ., Vancouver, WA 98686
    c Western Ecology Division, USEPA, 200 SW 35th St., Corvallis, OR 97333


Nitrogen (N) fluxes generated by an increasing human population have the potential to increase coastal riverine N loading, with implications for areas already degraded by elevated nutrient loads. Here we examine contemporary (year 2005) and future (year 2030) loading of total dissolved N (TDN) in the continental United States using the Nutrient Export from WaterSheds model (NEWS2US–TDN). Model-derived TDN estimates compared well with measured export of 29 catchments that represent 65% of land surface area for the continental United States (Nash–Sutcliffe efficiency = 0.83). Future output is based on scenarios that reflect future population growth and “business as usual” (BAU) and “ambitious” (AMB) approaches to nutrient management. Model-derived TDN export was 2.1 Tg N yr−1 in 2005 and 2.2 and 1.6 Tg N yr−1 in 2030 for the BAU and AMB scenarios, respectively. Depending on year and scenario, agriculture supplies 44 to 48% of coastal TDN, atmospheric N deposition supplies 14 to 17%, human sewage supplies 13 to 18%, and background sources supply 21 to 29%. The AMB scenario suggests that reducing nutrient loads to coastal areas will require aggressive actions, including a 25% improvement in agricultural nutrient use efficiency, a 20% reduction in N runoff from croplands, a 30% reduction in ammonia emissions from agriculture, and a 40% reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions from vehicles. Together, these aggressive actions could reduce year 2030 TDN export by 24% from 2005 levels, even with a 20% larger population.

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Copyright © 2014. Copyright © by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, Inc.

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