Increased nitrogen export from eastern North America to the Atlantic Ocean due to climatic and anthropogenic changes during 1901-2008

Qichun Yang, Hanqin Tian, Marjorie A.M. Friedrichs, Charles S. Hopkinson, Chaoqun Lu, Raymond G. Najjar

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We used a process-based land model, Dynamic Land Ecosystem Model 2.0, to examine how climatic and anthropogenic changes affected riverine fluxes of ammonium (NH4 +), nitrate (NO3 -), dissolved organic nitrogen (DON), and particulate organic nitrogen (PON) from eastern North America, especially the drainage areas of the Gulf of Maine (GOM), Mid-Atlantic Bight (MAB), and South Atlantic Bight (SAB) during 1901-2008. Model simulations indicated that annual fluxes of NH4 +, NO3 -, DON, and PON from the study area during 1980-2008 were 0.019 ± 0.003 (mean ± 1 standard deviation) Tg N yr-1, 0.18 ± 0.035 Tg N yr-1, 0.10 ± 0.016 Tg N yr-1, and 0.043 ± 0.008 Tg N yr-1, respectively. NH4 +, NO3 -, and DON exports increased while PON export decreased from 1901 to 2008. Nitrogen export demonstrated substantial spatial variability across the study area. Increased NH4 + export mainly occurred around major cities in the MAB. NO3 - export increased in most parts of the MAB but decreased in parts of the GOM. Enhanced DON export was mainly distributed in the GOM and the SAB. PON export increased in coastal areas of the SAB and northern parts of the GOM but decreased in the Piedmont areas and the eastern parts of the MAB. Climate was the primary reason for interannual variability in nitrogen export; fertilizer use and nitrogen deposition tended to enhance the export of all nitrogen species; livestock farming and sewage discharge were also responsible for the increases in NH4 + and NO3 - fluxes; and land cover change (especially reforestation of former agricultural land) reduced the export of the four nitrogen species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1046-1068
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Forestry
  • Aquatic Science
  • Soil Science
  • Palaeontology
  • Ecology
  • Atmospheric Science


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