Cloudwater Inputs of Nitrogen to Forest Ecosystems in Southern Chile: Forms, Fluxes, and Sources
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- Weathers, K., Lovett, G., Likens, G. et al. Ecosystems (2000) 3: 590. doi:10.1007/s100210000051
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Nitrogen (N) has been considered a limiting nutrient to many aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. However, human activity has resulted in increased atmospheric N deposition worldwide such that N pollution is now altering ecosystem function in many locations. Research on atmospheric deposition has focused primarily on inorganic nitrogen (DIN; NH4+-N + NO3−-N) via rainwater and dry deposition as the main N input to ecosystems. Recently, organic N (ON) has been shown to be an important constituent in rainwater or dry deposition. Here we show that ON dominated (66%) total N in cloudwater from a remote site in southern Chile. Cloudwater from more human-impacted sites in northeastern USA had lower ON concentrations and DIN was dominant. We estimate that cloudwater delivers up to 2 kg ha−1 DIN and 9 kg ha−1 ON annually, compared to less than 1 kg ha−1 of DIN deposition via rainwater, thus it may contribute substantially to the N-economy of Chilean coastal forests. We also suggest that the adjacent ocean, where biologic productivity is high, may be a major source of N in Chilean cloudwater. This proposed marine-terrestrial flux via cloud deposition has not previously been identified and may be an example of the ocean feeding the forest. We suggest that this type of cross boundary flux may be common in other upwelling zones, such as along the west coasts of Africa, North and South America and east India, and warrants further substantiation and investigation.