Long-term record of Atmospheric N deposition inteact with climate to influence estaurine impacts.

Project Leader: 
Project Fellows: 
Status: 
Ongoing
Science Themes: 

Atmospheric depostion can be an important contribution to nitrogen loading in coastal regions. Atmospheric loading is suggested to have declined due to pollution control efforts, however the degree and impact of this has not been quantified on Cape Cod. Additionally, it is predicted that climate change, especially with respect to rain events and durations, may interact with atmospheric conditions to affect estaurine productivity.  This project will analyze a long-time series of atmpsheric N deposition and climate to determine trends and the associated impacts to estaurine systems. 

To date, we have compiled the data and are now examining the trends. Results are showing significant decreases in NO3 deposition in the NE US,  similar to those observed in other regions such as central Europe. If decreases in N deposition have had demonstrable effects on the recovery of estuarine areas and reduced eutrophication, it will allow managers to focus a more useful targeting of management on other sources of nitrogen (fertilizer use and wastewater disposal).  

Our results have confirmed an unprecedented decrease in nitrate deposition over the entire North American continent, particularly marked in the Northeast US and Southeast Canada. The decrease is linked to a parallel reduction in vehicle and stationary source emissions, but it also responds to the own climatic characteristics of the regions where the most marked decreases are observed as most of the deposition in these places is originated in upwind industrial regions. Preliminary results from the analyses of field samplings in Cape Cod estuaries reveal that, despite the increase in nitrogen inputs from septic systems, the reduction in atmospheric pollution has caused that the trophic status of the estuaries has not change, as confirmed by the nutrient and chlorophyll concentrations as well as macroalgal biomasses.

 
Presentations: 
  • Sarah Skelton, Ivan Valiela, Javier Lloret, Caroline Owens, and Elizabeth Elmstrom. 2015 MBL Undergraduate Research Symposium. The impact of nitrogen loading in Waquoit Bay, MA on estuarine food webs constructed by stable isotope analysis.  Aug 19-20.
  • Caroline Owens, Ivan Valiela, Javier Lloret, Elizabeth Elmstrom, and Sarah Skelton. 2015 MBL Undergraduate Research Symposium. Effects of changing nitrogen loads on vegetation patterns in Waquoit Bay, 1990-2014. Aug 19-20.
  • Reductions in atmospheric oxidized nitrogen deposition over North America: The relative role of emission controls and climatic patterns. The Ecosystems Center 2016 Seminar Series. Woods Hole, MA.
Other: 
  • Maps for wet atmospheric deposition of N have been produced for US, Canada and Europe.  Trend analyses have also been mapped in both  North America and Europe.