Toward the improvement of total nitrogen deposition budgets in the United States

J. T. Walker, G. Beachley, H. M. Amos, J. S. Baron, J. Bash, R. Baumgardner, M. D. Bell, K. B. Benedict, X. Chen, D. W. Clow, A. Cole, J. G. Coughlin, K. Cruz, R. W. Daly, S. M. Decina, E. M. Elliott, M. E. Fenn, L. Ganzeveld, K. Gebhart, S. S. IsilB. M. Kerschner, R. S. Larson, T. Lavery, G. G. Lear, T. Macy, M. A. Mast, K. Mishoe, K. H. Morris, P. E. Padgett, R. V. Pouyat, M. Puchalski, H. O.T. Pye, A. W. Rea, M. F. Rhodes, C. M. Rogers, R. Saylor, R. Scheffe, B. A. Schichtel, D. B. Schwede, G. A. Sexstone, B. C. Sive, R. Sosa, P. H. Templer, T. Thompson, D. Tong, G. A. Wetherbee, T. H. Whitlow, Z. Wu, Z. Yu, L. Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Frameworks for limiting ecosystem exposure to excess nutrients and acidity require accurate and complete deposition budgets of reactive nitrogen (Nr). While much progress has been made in developing total Nr deposition budgets for the U.S., current budgets remain limited by key data and knowledge gaps. Analysis of National Atmospheric Deposition Program Total Deposition (NADP/TDep) data illustrates several aspects of current Nr deposition that motivate additional research. Averaged across the continental U.S., dry deposition contributes slightly more (55%) to total deposition than wet deposition and is the dominant process (>90%) over broad areas of the Southwest and other arid regions of the West. Lack of dry deposition measurements imposes a reliance on models, resulting in a much higher degree of uncertainty relative to wet deposition which is routinely measured. As nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions continue to decline, reduced forms of inorganic nitrogen (NHx = NH3 + NH4 +) now contribute >50% of total Nr deposition over large areas of the U.S. Expanded monitoring and additional process-level research are needed to better understand NHx deposition, its contribution to total Nr deposition budgets, and the processes by which reduced N deposits to ecosystems. Urban and suburban areas are hotspots where routine monitoring of oxidized and reduced Nr deposition is needed. Finally, deposition budgets have incomplete information about the speciation of atmospheric nitrogen; monitoring networks do not capture important forms of Nr such as organic nitrogen. Building on these themes, we detail the state of the science of Nr deposition budgets in the U.S. and highlight research priorities to improve deposition budgets in terms of monitoring and flux measurements, leaf- to regional-scale modeling, source apportionment, and characterization of deposition trends and patterns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1328-1352
Number of pages25
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Nov 15 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Ammonia
  • Dry deposition
  • Organic nitrogen
  • Oxidized nitrogen
  • Reactive nitrogen
  • Wet deposition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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