Ammonia dry deposition in an alpine ecosystem traced to agricultural emission hotpots

Mark A. Zondlo, Da Pan, Katherine B. Benedict, Levi M. Golston, Rui Wang, Jeffrey L. Collett, Lei Tao, Kang Sun, Xuehui Guo, Jay Ham, Anthony J. Prenni, Bret A. Schichtel, Tomas Mikoviny, Markus Müller, Armin Wisthaler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Elevated reactive nitrogen (Nr) deposition is a concern for alpine ecosystems, and dry NH3 deposition is a key contributor. Understanding how emission hotspots impact downwind ecosystems through dry NH3 deposition provides opportunities for effective mitigation. However, direct NH3 flux measurements with sufficient temporal resolution to quantify such events are rare. Here, we measured NH3 fluxes at Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) during two summers and analyzed transport events from upwind agricultural and urban sources in northeastern Colorado. We deployed open-path NH3 sensors on a mobile laboratory and an eddy covariance tower to measure NH3 concentrations and fluxes. Our spatial sampling illustrated an upslope event that transported NH3 emissions from the hotspot to RMNP. Observed NH3 deposition was significantly higher when backtrajectories passed through only the agricultural region (7.9 ng m−2 s−1) versus only the urban area (1.0 ng m−2 s−1) and both urban and agricultural areas (2.7 ng m−2 s−1). Cumulative NH3 fluxes were calculated using observed, bidirectional modeled, and gap-filled fluxes. More than 40% of the total dry NH3 deposition occurred when air masses were traced back to agricultural source regions. More generally, we identified that 10 (25) more national parks in the U.S. are within 100 (200) km of an NH3 hotspot, and more observations are needed to quantify the impacts of these hotspots on dry NH3 deposition in these regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7776-7785
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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