• atmospheric deposition;
  • China;
  • emission;
  • Japan;
  • reactive nitrogen


The objective of this review is to make current knowledge on the nitrogen (N) load throughout the atmosphere (airborne N load) available to readers, with special emphasis on Japanese and Chinese agroecosystems. Key species of airborne N are ammonia, nitrogen dioxide, nitrogen oxide, nitric acid, nitrous acid and particulate ammonium and nitrate. Organic N also exists in the atmosphere. The main processes in terms of the airborne N load involve emission, atmospheric transportation and transformation, atmospheric deposition and environmental impacts. Agricultural activities are the largest emitters of ammonia through emissions mainly from livestock waste and field-applied N fertilizers. The ammonia emissions in China in 1995 from chemical fertilizers and organic fertilizers, such as animal excreta, were estimated to be 3.56 and 2.04 Tg N year−1, respectively, and the emissions in Japan were 0.059 and 0.069 Tg N year−1, respectively. The most fundamental causes of the airborne N load in relation to Japanese and Chinese agriculture were intensive livestock farming in Japan and over use of N fertilizers in China. However, agroecosystems are also a sink for airborne N. Atmospheric N deposition was up to 20 and 60 kg N ha−1 year−1 in Japan and China, respectively. The unrelenting load of airborne N continues in Japan and China. The development of a simple, but accurate method to determine the dry deposition flux that is applicable to simultaneous and multipoint observations would be valuable. The establishment of cross relationships among in situ observations, remote sensing and numerical modeling is also needed to cope with the issue by assessing the actual status, predicting the future status and working out effective measures.