Contributions of long-distance dust transport to atmospheric P inputs in the Yucatan Peninsula

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Abstract

[1] Atmospheric deposition is not typically considered in conceptual models of P cycling in terrestrial ecosystems, but in P-limited tropical forests that receive significant inputs of dust, it may play an important role in sustaining ecosystem productivity. We used models and observations to quantify total atmospheric P inputs and the contribution of long-distance dust transport to tropical dry forests in the Yucatan peninsula over a 10 year period. Total atmospheric P input was estimated from atmospheric bulk deposition sampling in the southern Yucatan peninsula in 2007 and 2010–2011, and P input from dust deposition was estimated using two independent methods: zonal dust flux divergence based on MODIS AOD retrievals, and MATCH atmospheric transport modeling. Total atmospheric P input was 265 ± 80 g P ha-1 yr-1, and dust P input was 46 ± 12 g P ha-1 yr-1. There was significant seasonal and interannual variation, with local biomass burning accounting for high P inputs in April and May, and dust transport from June through August. We found that MATCH underestimates P deposition from dust to the Yucatan because of underestimation of dust transport relative to MODIS remote sensing. Dust accounted for 25% of total atmospheric P inputs in the Yucatan, indicating local sources dominate atmospheric inputs. However, dust is still an important source of P for tropical dry forests in the Yucatan since it is a new input of P that occurs during the early growing season of the forest, and is large enough to offset leaching and erosional losses from soils.

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