Dry nitrogen deposition estimates over a forest experiencing free air CO2 enrichment


Jed P. Sparks, e-mail:


The quantification of atmospheric additions of nitrogen (N) to an ecosystem is often desirable, but difficult for many locations including many ecological manipulation experiments. Ideal methodologies for the complete and chemically speciated quantification of dry N deposition (e.g. tunable diode laser absorption spectrometer, thermal-dissociation laser-induced fluorescence) are expensive, technologically challenging to maintain, and rarely colocated with important global change manipulation experiments. Here we present an alternative method for obtaining an approximation of total N deposition using short-term eddy flux and concentration measurements, annual regional concentration estimates, and modeling for the Duke Experimental Forest. The motivation for generating estimates for this location was to inform the long-term elevated CO2 experiment conducted at Duke Forest. We estimated the total annual atmospheric N deposition to the forest to be 13.7 kg N ha−1. Of this total, ∼58% was in dry-deposited forms. Surprisingly, and contrary to some previous predictions, nitric acid (HNO3) was not the dominant portion of the total dry-deposited N, implying strongly that other forms of gaseous N like organic peroxy and alkyl nitrate compounds are a significant portion of the total flux. Furthermore, this study sheds light on the completeness of the estimates derived from Clean Air Status and Trends Network (CASTNet) and other dry deposition networks. CASTNet does not measure organic forms of dry deposition. In fact, CASTNet only quantifies HNO3 in the gas phase and may significantly underestimate total N deposition in many environments.