Impacts of Atmospheric Nitrogen Deposition on Surface Waters of the Western North Atlantic Mitigated by Multiple Feedbacks

P. St-Laurent, M. A.M. Friedrichs, R. G. Najjar, D. K. Martins, M. Herrmann, S. K. Miller, J. Wilkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The impacts of atmospheric nitrogen deposition (AND) on the chlorophyll and nitrogen dynamics of surface waters in the western North Atlantic (25°N–45°N, 65°W–80°W) are examined with a biogeochemical ocean model forced with a regional atmospheric chemistry model (Community Multiscale Air Quality, CMAQ). CMAQ simulations with year-specific emissions reveal the existence of a “hot spot” of AND over the Gulf Stream. The impact of the hot spot on the oceanic biogeochemistry is mitigated in three ways by physical and biogeochemical processes. First, AND significantly contributes to surface oceanic nitrogen concentrations only during the summer period, when the stratification is maximal and the background nitrogen inventories are minimal. Second, the increase in summer surface nitrate concentrations is accompanied by a reduction in upward nitrate diffusion at the base of the surface layer. This negative feedback partly cancels the nitrogen enrichment from AND. Third, gains in biomass near the surface force a shoaling of the euphotic layer and a reduction of about 5% in deep primary production and biomass on the continental shelf. Despite these mitigating processes, the impacts of AND remain substantial. AND increases surface nitrate concentrations in the Gulf Stream region by 14% during the summer (2% on average over the year). New primary production increases by 22% in this region during summer (8% on average). Although these changes may be difficult to distinguish from natural variability in observations, the results support the view that AND significantly enhances local carbon export.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8406-8426
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Oceanography


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