Zapata et al., 2011


Sources and Amounts of Nitrogen Deposited in Sky-Island Ecosystems.

Zapata, X., McIntosh, J.C., Sorooshian, A., Lohse, K.A., Brooks, P.D., Troch, P.A., Chorover, J., Heidbuechel, I. (2011)
AGU Fall Meeting Presentations (Poster) Abstract B13G-0652.  


Wet and dry deposition of ammonia, amines, and oxidation products of nitrogen (N) oxides represent major inputs of N onto land. High altitude ecosystems, which are common in Arizona, are especially vulnerable to the effects of N deposition. Recent measurements in the Rocky Mountain region indicate that N deposition fluxes have increased nearly 20-fold since pre-industrial times. Nitrate is one of the most common contaminants degrading water quality worldwide. In Arizona, over 1,000 groundwater wells contain nitrate concentrations above the EPA drinking water standard (10 mg/L NO3-N). Recent studies in the Tucson Basin, using multiple-isotope tracers show that atmospheric deposition of N may be a significant contributor to nitrate contamination to surface and ground water (up to 50%). The primary objective of this research is to determine the sources and amount of nitrogen deposition in the Santa Catalina Mountains in southeastern Arizona, north of Tucson. To meet this objective, NO3, NO2, NH4, amines, organic-N, 15N, 18O, and 17O in atmospheric deposition, soil waters and surface waters were measured from the Marshall Gulch and Mt. Bigelow sites at the top of the Catalina mountains, since 2008. Nutrient data was coupled with hydrologic measurements (e.g. amount of precipitation, stream discharge) and catchment characteristics (e.g. soil depth, bedrock lithology) to investigate controls on nutrient dynamics. The results show that total dissolved nitrogen (TN), nitrate (NO3-N), nitrite (NO2-N), and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations were slightly higher in water draining the granite versus schist hillslopes. Mean and median concentrations of DOC, TN, NO3-N and NO2-N decrease downstream at the Marshall Gulch, upper elevation site. Measurements of the composition of aerosol particles at the base and top of the Catalina Mountains show that dust aerosol is a major contributor to dry deposition at both sites during the spring and summer. In addition, NO3, NO2, and chloride levels are high in aerosols during these dust-impacted months at both sites. High amounts of N deposition in the spring and summer may be related to NOx emissions from the Tucson urban core and dust, which are transported to the top of Mt. Lemmon. TN, NO3-N, and NO2-N concentrations in Marshall Gulch outlet stream waters were highest during the summer dry period and summer monsoons, which corresponds to the period of greatest atmospheric deposition of N. Ongoing triple isotope analysis of NO3 will help shed light on atmospheric versus terrestrial sources of N and removal pathways, such as denitrification. Results from this study enhance our understanding of the sources and amounts of nitrogen being deposited in sky-island ecosystems and biogeochemical processes occurring in the critical zone defined as the upper shell of the planet that extends from the top of the canopy to the lower part of the groundwater.


Zapata, X., McIntosh, J.C., Sorooshian, A., Lohse, K.A., Brooks, P.D., Troch, P.A., Chorover, J., Heidbuechel, I. (2011): Sources and Amounts of Nitrogen Deposited in Sky-Island Ecosystems. AGU Fall Meeting Presentations (Poster) Abstract B13G-0652..