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Phosphorus Speciation in Atmospherically Deposited Particulate Matter and Implications for Terrestrial Ecosystem Productivity


Chemical forms of phosphorus (P) in airborne particulate matter (PM) are poorly known and do not correlate with solubility or extraction measurements commonly used to infer speciation. We used P X-ray absorption near-edge structure (XANES) and 31P nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopies to determine P species in PM collected at four mountain sites (Colorado and California). Organic P species dominated samples from high elevations, with organic P estimated at 65-100% of total P in bulk samples by XANES and 79-88% in extracted fractions (62-84% of total P) by NMR regardless of particle size (≥10 or 1-10 μm). Phosphorus monoester and diester organic species were dominant and present in about equal proportions, with low fractions of inorganic P species. By comparison, PM from low elevation contained mixtures of organic and inorganic P, with organic P estimated at 30-60% of total P. Intercontinental PM transport determined from radiogenic lead (Pb) isotopes varied from 0 to 59% (mean 37%) Asian-sourced Pb at high elevation, whereas stronger regional PM inputs were found at low elevation. Airborne flux of bioavailable P to high-elevation ecosystems may be twice as high as estimated by global models, which will disproportionately affect net primary productivity.

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