Nitrogen deposition in and around an intensive agricultural district in central New York

Timothy J. Fahey, Christopher J. Williams, Juliette N. Rooney-Varga, Cory C. Cleveland, Kimberley M. Postek, Stephen D. Smith, David R. Bouldin

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54 Scopus citations


Emissions of NH3 from intensive agriculture may perturb natural ecosystems by increasing atmospheric N deposition. This study was undertaken to quantify patterns of atmospheric chemistry and N deposition in and around a highly intensive agricultural district and thereby to improve understanding of the fate of NH3 emissions and possible effects on regional forests. Atmospheric chemistry, wet and bulk deposition, canopy throughfall, and soil and vegetation N status were measured at a suite of sites in and around the agricultural district centered in southern Cayuga County, New York. Concentrations of NH4/+ and acidic gases and particulates were slightly elevated compared with regional background values. Temporal variations in these species were consistent throughout the district and surrounding areas, suggesting wide dispersion. In contrast, NH3 concentrations were greatly elevated within the district (often >1 μg m-3), comparable to values in southeastern Netherlands, but declined to moderate values in outlying areas (0.2 μg m-3). Bulk deposition of NH4+ near large farms (7-8 kg NH4-N ha-1 yr-1) was over twice as high as the regional background, declining to levels about 50% above background throughout the district but more than 2 km away from large farms (4-5 kg NH4-N ha-1 yr-1). These values must be regarded as tentative estimates because of probable high seasonal and annual variation and the limited intervals of sampling in the current study. Also, gaseous deposition of NH3 to forests in the district probably contributes significantly to total deposition, but its magnitude remains uncertain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1585-1600
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1999


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