Sources of nitrogen to estuaries in the United States
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The purpose of this study was to quantify the nitrogen (N) inputs to 34 estuaries on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States. Total nitrogen (TN) inputs ranged from 1 kg N ha−1 yr−1 for Upper Laguna Madre, Texas, to 49 kg N ha−1 yr−1 for Massachusetts Bay, Massachusetts. TN inputs to 11 of the 34 estuaries were dominated by urban N sources (point sources and septic systems) and nonpoint source N runoff (5% of total); point sources accounted for 36–86% of the TN inputs to these 11 urban-dominated estuaries. TN inputs to 20 of the 34 estuaries were dominated by agricultural N sources; N fertilization was the dominant source (46% of the total), followed by manure (32% of the total) and N fixation by crops (16% of the total). Atmospheric deposition (runoff from watershed plus direct deposition to the surface of the estuary) was the dominant N source for three estuaries (Barnegat Bay, New Jersey: 64%; St. Catherines-Sapelo, Georgia: 72%; and Barataria Bay, Louisiana: 53%). Six estuaries had atmospheric contributions ≥30% of the TN inputs (Casco Bay, Maine: 43%; Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts: 30%; Great Bay, New Jersey: 40%; Chesapeake Bay: 30%; Terrebonne-Timbalier Bay, Louisiana: 59%; and Upper Laguna Madre: 41%). Results from our study suggest that reductions in N loadings to estuaries should be accomplished by implementing watershed specific programs that target the dominant N sources.
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- Sources of nitrogen to estuaries in the United States
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- 1. Appalachian Laboratory, 301 Braddock Road, 21532, Frostburg, Maryland
- 2. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Syracuse University, 13244, Syracuse, New York
- 3. Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, 647 Contees Wharf Road, P.O. Box 28, 21037, Maryland, Edgewater
- 4. College of William and Mary, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, 23062, Gloucester Point, Virginia
- 5. Center for Environmental Science, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland, 1 Williams Street, 20688, Solomons, Maryland