The cycling of organic nitrogen through the atmosphere

T. Jickells, A.R. Baker, J.N. Cape, E. Nemitz, S.E. Cornell

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Atmospheric organic nitrogen (ON) appears to be a ubiquitous but poorly understood component of the atmospheric nitrogen deposition flux. Here, we focus on the (ON) components that dominate deposition and do not consider reactive atmospheric gases containing (ON) such as peroxyacyl nitrates that are important in atmospheric nitrogen transport, but are probably not particularly important in deposition. We first review the approaches to the analysis and characterization of atmospheric (ON). We then briefly summarize the available data on the concentrations of (ON)in both aerosols and rainwater from around the world, and the limited information available on its chemical characterization. This evidence clearly shows that atmospheric aerosol and rainwater (ON)is a complex mixture of material from multiple sources. This synthesis of available information is then used to try and identify some of the important sources of this material, in particular, if it is of predominantly natural or anthropogenic origin. Finally, we suggest that the flux of ON is about 25 per cent of the total nitrogen deposition flux.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20130115
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1621
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2013


  • nitrogen
  • organic nitrogen
  • atmosphere

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