Atmospheric nitrogen deposition has caused nitrogen enrichment and eutrophication of lakes in the northern hemisphere


ann-kristin bergström, fax +46 90 786 6705, e-mail:


We compiled chemical data and phytoplankton biomass (PB) data (chlorophyll a) from unproductive lakes in 42 different regions in Europe and North America, and compared these data to inorganic nitrogen (N) deposition over these regions. We demonstrate that increased deposition of inorganic N over large areas of Europe and North America has caused elevated concentrations of inorganic N in lakes. In addition, the unproductive lakes in high N deposition areas had clearly higher PB relative to the total phosphorus (P) concentrations illustrating that the elevated inorganic N concentrations has resulted in eutrophication and increased biomass of phytoplankton. The eutrophication caused by inorganic N deposition indicates that PB yield in a majority of lakes in the northern hemisphere is (was) limited by N in their natural state. We, therefore, suggest that P limitation largely concerns lakes where the balance between N and P has been changed because of increased anthropogenic input of N.