Is Nitrogen Deposition Altering the Nitrogen Status of Northeastern Forests?


Concern is resurfacing in the United States over the long-term effects of excess nitrogen (N) deposition and mobility in the environment. We present here a new synthesis of existing data sets for the northeastern United States, intended to answer a single question: Is N deposition altering the N status of forest ecosystems in this region? Surface water data suggest a significant increase in nitrate losses with N deposition. Soil data show an increase in nitrification with decreasing ratio of soil carbon to nitrogen (C:N) but weaker relationships between N deposition and soil C:N ratio or nitrification. Relationships between foliar chemistry and N deposition are no stronger than with gradients of climate and elevation. The differences in patterns for these three groups of indicators are explained by the degree of spatial and temporal integration represented by each sample type. The surface water data integrate more effectively over space than the foliar or soil data and therefore allow a more comprehensive view of N saturation. We conclude from these data that N deposition is altering N status in northeastern forests.


Earth Systems Research Center

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Oxford University Press

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