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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Effects of atmospheric inorganic nitrogen deposition on ocean biogeochemistry


We perform a sensitivity study with the Biogeochemical Elemental Cycling (BEC) ocean model to understand the impact of atmospheric inorganic nitrogen deposition on marine biogeochemistry and air-sea CO2 exchange. Simulations involved examining the response to three different atmospheric inorganic nitrogen deposition scenarios namely, Pre-industrial (22 Tg N/year), 1990s (39 Tg N/year), and an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) prediction for 2100, IPCC-A1FI (69 Tg N/year). Globally, the increasing N deposition had widespread, but modest effects on export production and air-sea CO2 exchange. The maximum increase in N deposition was 47 Tg N/year since Pre-industrial control for the IPCC-A1FI case, which had an increase in primary production (0.98 Gt C/year or 2%), export production (0.16 Gt C/year or 3%) and a decrease in atmospheric pCO2 of 1.66 ppm (0.6%) relative to the Pre-industrial control. In some regions, atmospheric N inputs supported >20% of the export production in the current era and >50% of the export production in the IPCC-A1FI case. As nitrogen deposition increased, N fixation decreased because the diazotrophs were outcompeted by diatoms and small phytoplankton under more N-replete conditions. This decrease in N fixation could partially counteract the ongoing increase in new nitrogen inputs via atmospheric N deposition.

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