Global Biogeochemical Cycles

Reconciling modeled and observed atmospheric deposition of soluble organic nitrogen at coastal locations



Atmospheric deposition of reactive nitrogen (N) species from air pollutants is a significant source of exogenous nitrogen in marine ecosystems. Here we use an atmospheric chemical transport model to investigate the supply of soluble organic nitrogen (ON) from anthropogenic sources to the ocean. Comparisons of modeled deposition with observations at coastal and marine locations show good overall agreement for inorganic nitrogen and total soluble nitrogen. However, previous modeling approaches result in significant underestimates of the soluble ON deposition if the model only includes the primary soluble ON and the secondary oxidized ON in gases and aerosols. Our model results suggest that including the secondary reduced ON in aerosols as a source of soluble ON contributes to an improved prediction of the deposition rates (g N m−2 yr−1). The model results show a clear distinction in the vertical distribution of soluble ON in aerosols between different processes from the primary sources and the secondary formation. The model results (excluding the biomass burning and natural emission changes) suggest an increase in soluble ON outflow from atmospheric pollution, in particular from East Asia, to the oceans in the twentieth century. These results highlight the necessity of improving the process-based quantitative understanding of the chemical reactions of inorganic nitrogen species with organics in aerosol and cloud water.