As humans increasingly dominate the nitrogen cycle, deposition of reactive nitrogen (Nr) will continue to have adverse consequences for ecosystems. In the Rocky Mountains, Nr deposition remains elevated and has become increasingly dominated by ammonium, despite efforts to reduce emissions. Currently, spatial models of Nr deposition do not fully account for urban and agricultural emissions, sources that contribute to the observed high rates of ammonium deposition in adjacent ecosystems. To address this gap in the Colorado Front Range, we measured Nr deposition along a transect from urban and agricultural plains to subalpine forests. We found elevated values of wet Nr deposition at the urban and foothill sites (4.7 and 4.4 kg N ha−1 yr−1, respectively), and lower values at the montane and subalpine sites (2.5–2.8 kg N ha−1 yr−1). Ammonium dominated wet and bulk Nr deposition, accounting for approximately 69% of bulk Nr deposition. Seasonally, bulk Nr deposition was highest in the spring months, when air masses from the plains are transported west into the mountains. Previous work has demonstrated that high elevations of the Colorado Front Range are especially sensitive to Nr deposition due to thin soil and minimal vegetation. Our results indicate that despite lower precipitation, the fire-prone forested foothills receive even greater Nr deposition than higher elevations, due to proximity to urban and agricultural Nr sources. The interaction between elevated Nr deposition and wildfire in this region may pose a risk to water supplies and ecosystems, and is an important topic for future research.
|Title||Elevated nitrogen deposition to fire-prone forests adjacent to urban and agricultural areas, Colorado front range, USA|
|Authors||Ruth C. Heindel, Sheila F. Murphy, Deborah A. Repert, Gregory A. Wetherbee, Alexander Liethen, David W. Clow, Toby A. Halamka|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Series Title||Earth’s Future|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Colorado Water Science Center; WMA - Earth System Processes Division|