Variability, drivers, and effects of atmospheric nitrogen inputs across an urban area: Emerging patterns among human activities, the atmosphere, and soils
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Variability, drivers, and effects of atmospheric nitrogen inputs across an urban area: Emerging patterns among human activities, the atmosphere, and soils

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  • Journal Title:
    Science of The Total Environment
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    Atmospheric deposition of nitrogen (N) is a major input of N to the biosphere and is elevated beyond preindustrial levels throughout many ecosystems. Deposition monitoring networks in the United States generally avoid urban areas in order to capture regional patterns of N deposition, and studies measuring N deposition in cities usually include only one or two urban sites in an urban-rural comparison or as an anchor along an urban-to-rural gradient. Describing patterns and drivers of atmospheric N inputs is crucial for understanding the effects of N deposition; however, little is known about the variability and drivers of atmospheric N inputs or their effects on soil biogeochemistry within urban ecosystems. We measured rates of canopy throughfall N as a measure of atmospheric N inputs, as well as soil net N mineralization and nitrification, soil solution N, and soil respiration at 15 sites across the greater Boston, Massachusetts area. Rates of throughfall N are 8.70 ± 0.68 kg N ha− 1 yr− 1, vary 3.5-fold across sites, and are positively correlated with rates of local vehicle N emissions. Ammonium (NH4+) composes 69.9 ± 2.2% of inorganic throughfall N inputs and is highest in late spring, suggesting a contribution from local fertilizer inputs. Soil solution NO3− is positively correlated with throughfall NO3− inputs. In contrast, soil solution NH4+, net N mineralization, nitrification, and soil respiration are not correlated with rates of throughfall N inputs. Rather, these processes are correlated with soil properties such as soil organic matter. Our results demonstrate high variability in rates of urban throughfall N inputs, correlation of throughfall N inputs with local vehicle N emissions, and a decoupling of urban soil biogeochemistry and throughfall N inputs.
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    Science of the Total Environment 609: 1524-1534
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    Accepted manuscript
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