Imbalanced atmospheric nitrogen and phosphorus depositions in China: Implications for nutrient limitation

Jianxing Zhu, Qiufeng Wang, Nianpeng He, Melinda D. Smith, James J. Elser, Jiaqiang Du, Guofu Yuan, Guirui Yu, Qiang Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

133 Scopus citations


Atmospheric wet nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) depositions are important sources of bioavailable N and P, and the input of N and P and their ratios significantly influences nutrient availability and balance in terrestrial as well as aquatic ecosystems. Here we monitored atmospheric P depositions by measuring monthly dissolved P concentration in rainfall at 41 field stations in China. Average deposition fluxes of N and P were 13.69 ± 8.69 kg N ha−1 a−1 (our previous study) and 0.21 ± 0.17 kg P ha−1 a−1, respectively. Central and southern China had higher N and P deposition rates than northwest China, northeast China, Inner Mongolia, or Qinghai-Tibet. Atmospheric N and P depositions showed strong seasonal patterns and were dependent upon seasonal precipitation. Fertilizer and energy consumption were significantly correlated with N deposition but less correlated with P deposition. The N:P ratios of atmospheric wet deposition (with the average of 77 ± 40, by mass) were negatively correlated with current soil N:P ratios in different ecological regions, suggesting that the imbalanced atmospheric N and P deposition will alter nutrient availability and strengthen P limitation, which may further influence the structure and function of terrestrial ecosystems. The findings provide the assessments of both wet N and P deposition and their N:P ratio across China and indicate potential for strong impacts of atmospheric deposition on broad range of terrestrial ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1605-1616
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • N:P
  • ecological stoichiometry
  • nutrient limitation
  • wet deposition


Dive into the research topics of 'Imbalanced atmospheric nitrogen and phosphorus depositions in China: Implications for nutrient limitation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this