Estimation of atmospheric nutrient inputs to the Atlantic Ocean from 50 degrees North to 50 degrees South based on large-scale field sampling: Fixed nitrogen and dry deposition of phosphorus

AR Baker, T Lesworth, C Adams, TJ Jickells, L Ganzeveld

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Atmospheric nitrogen inputs to the ocean are estimated to have increased by up to a factor of three as a result of increased anthropogenic emissions over the last 150 years, with further increases expected in the short- to mid-term at least. Such estimates are largely based on emissions and atmospheric transport modeling, because, apart from a few island sites, there is very little observational data available for atmospheric nitrogen concentrations over the remote ocean. Here we use samples of rainwater and aerosol we obtained during 12 long-transect cruises across the Atlantic Ocean between 50°N and 50°S as the basis for a climatological estimate of nitrogen inputs to the basin. The climatology is for the 5 years 2001–2005, during which almost all of the cruises took place, and includes dry and wet deposition of nitrate and ammonium explicitly, together with a more uncertain estimate of soluble organic nitrogen deposition. Our results indicate that nitrogen inputs into the region were ~850–1420 Gmol (12–20 Tg) N yr-1, with ~78–85% of this in the form of wet deposition. Inputs were greater in the Northern Hemisphere and in wet regions, and wet regions had a greater proportion of input via wet deposition. The largest uncertainty in our estimate of dry inputs is associated with variability in deposition velocities, while the largest uncertainty in our wet nitrogen input estimate is due to the limited amount and uneven geographic distribution of observational data. We also estimate a lower limit of dry deposition of phosphate to be ~0.19 Gmol P yr-1, using data from the same cruises. We compare our results to several recent estimates of N and P deposition to the Atlantic and discuss the likely sources of uncertainty, such as the potential seasonal bias introduced by our sampling, on our climatology.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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