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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Atmospheric deposition and precipitation are important predictors of inorganic nitrogen export to streams from forest and grassland watersheds: a large-scale data synthesis

Templer, P. H.; Harrison, J. L.; Pilotto, F.; Flores-Diaz, A.; Haase, P.; McDowell, W. H.; Sharif, R.; Shibata, H.; Blankman, D.; Avila, A.; Baatar, U.; Bogena, H. R.; Bourgeois, I; Campbell, J.; Dirnboeck, T.; Dodds, W. K.; Hauken, M.; Kokorite, I; Lajtha, K.; Lai, I-L; Laudon, H.; Lin, T. C.; Lins, S. R. M.; Meesenburg, H.; Pinho, P.; Robison, A.; Rogora, M.; Scheler, B.; Schleppi, P.; Sommaruga, R.; Staszewski, T.; Taka, M.
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Previous studies have evaluated how changes in atmospheric nitrogen (N) inputs and climate affect stream N concentrations and fluxes, but none have synthesized data from sites around the globe. We identified variables controlling stream inorganic N concentrations and fluxes, and how they have changed, by synthesizing 20 time series ranging from 5 to 51 years of data collected from forest and grassland dominated watersheds across Europe, North America, and East Asia and across four climate types (tropical, temperate, Mediterranean, and boreal) using the International Long-Term Ecological Research Network. We hypothesized that sites with greater atmospheric N deposition have greater stream N export rates, but that climate has taken a stronger role as atmospheric deposition declines in many regions of the globe. We found declining trends in bulk ammonium and nitrate deposition, especially in the longest time-series, with ammonium contributing relatively more to atmospheric N deposition over time. Among sites, there were statistically significant positive relationships between (1) annual rates of precipitation and stream ammonium and nitrate fluxes and (2) annual rates of atmospheric N inputs and stream nitrate concentrations and fluxes. There were no significant relationships between air temperature and stream N export. Our long-term data shows that although N deposition is declining over time, atmospheric N inputs and precipitation remain important predictors for inorganic N exported from forested and grassland watersheds. Overall, we also demonstrate that long-term monitoring provides understanding of ecosystems and biogeochemical cycling that would not be possible with short-term studies alone.


Bulk nitrogen deposition; LTER; Atmospheric pollution; Throughfall; Watershed; Water quality

Published in

2022, volume: 160, number: 2, pages: 219-241
Publisher: SPRINGER

Authors' information

Templer, P. H.
Boston University
Harrison, J. L.
Boston University
Harrison, J. L.
Columbia University
Pilotto, F.
Norwegian Institute Nature Research
Flores-Diaz, A.
Universidad Iberoamericana Ciudad de Mexico
Haase, P.
Senckenberg Gesellschaft fur Naturforschung (SGN)
Haase, P.
University of Duisburg Essen
McDowell, William H.
University of New Hampshire
Sharif, R.
University of Maryland College Park
Shibata, H.
Hokkaido University
Blankman, D.
ILTER Informat Management Comm
Avila, A.
Centro de Investigacion Ecologica y Aplicaciones Forestales (CREAF)
Baatar, U.
University of Vienna
Bogena, H. R.
Research Center Julich
Bourgeois, I
University of Colorado Boulder
Campbell, J.
United States Forest Service
Dirnboeck, Thomas
Environm Agcy Austria
Dodds, W. K.
Kansas State University
Hauken, M.
Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research
Kokorite, I
University of Latvia
Lajtha, K.
Oregon State University
Lai, I-L
National Pingtung University Science and Technology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management
Lin, T. C.
National Taiwan Normal University
Lins, S. R. M.
Universidade de Sao Paulo
Meesenburg, H.
Northwest German Forest Res Inst
Pinho, P.
Universidade de Lisboa
Robison, A.
University System Of New Hampshire
Rogora, M.
Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR)
Scheler, B.
Northwest German Forest Res Inst
Schleppi, P.
Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research
Sommaruga, R.
University of Innsbruck
Staszewski, T.
Institute for Ecology of Industrial Areas
Taka, M.
Aalto University
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Sustainable Development Goals

SDG13 Climate action

UKÄ Subject classification

Geosciences, Multidisciplinary
Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences
Environmental Sciences

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