Increasing importance of deposition of reduced nitrogen in the United States

Yi Li, Bret A. Schichtel, John T. Walker, Donna B. Schwede, Xi Chen, Christopher M.B. Lehmann, Melissa A. Puchalski, David A. Gay, Jeffrey L. Collett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rapid development of agriculture and fossil fuel combustion greatly increased US reactive nitrogen emissions to the atmosphere in the second half of the 20th century, resulting in excess nitrogen deposition to natural ecosystems. Recent efforts to lower nitrogen oxides emissions have substantially decreased nitrate wet deposition. Levels of wet ammonium deposition, by contrast, have increased in many regions. Together these changes have altered the balance between oxidized and reduced nitrogen deposition. Across most of the United States, wet deposition has transitioned from being nitrate-dominated in the 1980s to ammonium-dominated in recent years. Ammonia has historically not been routinely measured because there are no specific regulatory requirements for its measurement. Recent expansion in ammonia observations, however, along with ongoing measurements of nitric acid and fine particle ammonium and nitrate, permit new insight into the balance of oxidized and reduced nitrogen in the total (wet + dry) US nitrogen deposition budget. Observations from 37 sites reveal that reduced nitrogen contributes, on average, ∼65% of the total inorganic nitrogen deposition budget. Dry deposition of ammonia plays an especially key role in nitrogen deposition, contributing from 19% to 65% in different regions. Future progress toward reducing US nitrogen deposition will be increasingly difficult without a reduction in ammonia emissions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5874-5879
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number21
StatePublished - May 24 2016


  • Agriculture
  • Ammonia
  • Dry deposition
  • Nitrogen oxides
  • Wet deposition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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