Anthropogenic nitrogen sources and relationships to riverine nitrogen export in the northeastern U.S.A.

Elizabeth Weeks Boyer, Christine L. Goodale, Norbert A. Jaworski, Robert W. Howarth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

447 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Human activities have greatly altered the nitrogen (N) cycle, accelerating the rate of N fixation in landscapes and delivery of N to water bodies. To examine relationships between anthropogenic N inputs and riverine N export, we constructed budgets describing N inputs and losses for 16 catchments, which encompass a range of climatic variability and are major drainages to the coast of the North Atlantic Ocean along a latitudinal profile from Maine to Virginia. Using data from the early 1990's, we quantified inputs of N to each catchment from atmospheric deposition, application of nitrogenous fertilizers, biological nitrogen fixation, and import of N in agricultural products (food and feed). We compared these inputs with N losses from the system in riverine export. The importance of the relative sources varies widely by catchment and is related to land use. Net atmospheric deposition was the largest N source (>60%) to the forested basins of northern New England (e.g. Penobscot and Kennebec); net import of N in food was the largest source of N to the more populated regions of southern New England (e.g. Charles & Blackstone); and agricultural inputs were the dominant N sources in the Mid-Atlantic region (e.g. Schuylkill & Potomac). Over the combined area of the catchments, net atmospheric deposition was the largest single source input (31%), followed by net imports of N in food and feed (25%), fixation in agricultural lands (24%), fertilizer use (15%), and fixation in forests (5%). The combined effect of fertilizer use, fixation in crop lands, and animal feed imports makes agriculture the largest overall source of N. Riverine export of N is well correlated with N inputs, but it accounts for only a fraction (25%) of the total N inputs. This work provides an understanding of the sources of N in landscapes, and highlights how human activities impact N cycling in the northeast region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-169
Number of pages33
JournalBiogeochemistry
Volume57-58
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 27 2002

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Catchments
fixation
import
Fertilizers
Nitrogen
atmospheric deposition
catchment
nitrogen
food
human activity
fertilizer
Nitrogen fixation
Agricultural products
Land use
Agriculture
Drainage
Crops
Coastal zones
Animals
agricultural land

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes

Cite this

Boyer, Elizabeth Weeks ; Goodale, Christine L. ; Jaworski, Norbert A. ; Howarth, Robert W. / Anthropogenic nitrogen sources and relationships to riverine nitrogen export in the northeastern U.S.A. In: Biogeochemistry. 2002 ; Vol. 57-58. pp. 137-169.
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abstract = "Human activities have greatly altered the nitrogen (N) cycle, accelerating the rate of N fixation in landscapes and delivery of N to water bodies. To examine relationships between anthropogenic N inputs and riverine N export, we constructed budgets describing N inputs and losses for 16 catchments, which encompass a range of climatic variability and are major drainages to the coast of the North Atlantic Ocean along a latitudinal profile from Maine to Virginia. Using data from the early 1990's, we quantified inputs of N to each catchment from atmospheric deposition, application of nitrogenous fertilizers, biological nitrogen fixation, and import of N in agricultural products (food and feed). We compared these inputs with N losses from the system in riverine export. The importance of the relative sources varies widely by catchment and is related to land use. Net atmospheric deposition was the largest N source (>60{\%}) to the forested basins of northern New England (e.g. Penobscot and Kennebec); net import of N in food was the largest source of N to the more populated regions of southern New England (e.g. Charles & Blackstone); and agricultural inputs were the dominant N sources in the Mid-Atlantic region (e.g. Schuylkill & Potomac). Over the combined area of the catchments, net atmospheric deposition was the largest single source input (31{\%}), followed by net imports of N in food and feed (25{\%}), fixation in agricultural lands (24{\%}), fertilizer use (15{\%}), and fixation in forests (5{\%}). The combined effect of fertilizer use, fixation in crop lands, and animal feed imports makes agriculture the largest overall source of N. Riverine export of N is well correlated with N inputs, but it accounts for only a fraction (25{\%}) of the total N inputs. This work provides an understanding of the sources of N in landscapes, and highlights how human activities impact N cycling in the northeast region.",
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Anthropogenic nitrogen sources and relationships to riverine nitrogen export in the northeastern U.S.A. / Boyer, Elizabeth Weeks; Goodale, Christine L.; Jaworski, Norbert A.; Howarth, Robert W.

In: Biogeochemistry, Vol. 57-58, 27.07.2002, p. 137-169.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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