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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Atmospheric Pollutants and Trace Gases

Spatiotemporal Variability of Wet Atmospheric Nitrogen Deposition to the Neuse River Estuary, North Carolina


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 30 No. 5, p. 1508-1515
    Received: July 5, 2001

    * Corresponding author(s): drwhital@syr.edu
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  1. David R. Whitall * and
  2. Hans W. Paerl
  1. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Institute of Marine Sciences, 3431 Arendell St., Morehead City, NC 28557


Excessive nitrogen (N) loading to N-sensitive waters such as the Neuse River estuary (North Carolina) has been shown to promote changes in microbial and algal community composition and function (harmful algal blooms), hypoxia and anoxia, and fish kills. Previous studies have estimated that wet atmospheric deposition of nitrogen (WAD-N), as deposition of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN: NO 3, NH3/NH+ 4) and dissolved organic nitrogen, may contribute at least 15% of the total externally supplied or “new” N flux to the coastal waters of North Carolina. In a 3-yr study from June 1996 to June 1999, we calculated the weekly wet deposition of inorganic and organic N at eleven sites on a northwest–southeast transect in the watershed. The annual mean total (wet DIN + wet organics) WAD-N flux for the Neuse River watershed was calculated to be 956 mg N/m2/yr (15026 Mg N/yr). Seasonally, the spring (March–May) and summer (June–August) months contain the highest total weekly N deposition; this pattern appears to be driven by N concentration in precipitation. There is also spatial variability in WAD-N deposition; in general, the upper portion of the watershed receives the lowest annual deposition and the middle portion of the watershed receives the highest deposition. Based on a range of watershed N retention and in-stream riverine processing values, we estimate that this flux contributes approximately 24% of the total “new” N flux to the estuary.

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Copyright © 2001. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyPublished in J. Environ. Qual.30:1508–1515.