Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 22, Issue 9, pp 6526–6534 | Cite as

Urbanization in China changes the composition and main sources of wet inorganic nitrogen deposition

  • Juan HuangEmail author
  • Wei Zhang
  • Xiaomin Zhu
  • Frank S. Gilliam
  • Hao Chen
  • Xiankai Lu
  • Jiangming Mo
Research Article


Nowadays, nitrogen (N) deposition has become a growing global concern due to urbanization activities increasing the large amount of reactive N in the atmosphere. However, it remains unclear whether urbanization affects the composition and main sources of N deposition in rapidly urbanizing areas such as in China. One-year measurement of wet inorganic N deposition was conducted using ion-exchange resin (IER) columns in the range of 260 km from urban to rural areas in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) region, south China. An increasing pattern of wet inorganic deposition along the urbanization gradient was observed and it increased in the order: rural (15.26 ± 0.20 kg N ha−1 year−1) < suburban/rural (21.45 ± 3.73 kg N ha−1 year−1) < urban (31.16 ± 0.44 kg N ha−1 year−1) < urban/suburban sites (34.15 ± 5.73 kg N ha−1 year−1). Nitrate N (NO3 –N) accounted for 53.5–79.1 % of total wet inorganic N deposition, indicating a significant negative correlation with distance from the urban core. Based on moss δ15N-values the main source of NO3 –N was considered to be emitted from vehicles. Our results demonstrate that urbanization has large impacts on the regional pattern of wet inorganic N deposition. Thus, controlling NOx emission, especially vehicle emission will become an effective strategy for N pollution abatement in China.


Urbanization Nitrogen deposition Ammonium N Nitrate N PRD region 



This work was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (41473112), Guangdong Natural Science Foundation (S2012040007989) and Open Research Fund of Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Environmental Pollution Control and Remediation Technology (2011 K0014). The authors would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for critical comments, Dr. Geshere Abdisa Gurmesa from University of Copenhagen, for polishing the manuscript and Dr. Tao Zhang for collecting samples, respectively.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juan Huang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Wei Zhang
    • 1
  • Xiaomin Zhu
    • 1
  • Frank S. Gilliam
    • 2
  • Hao Chen
    • 1
  • Xiankai Lu
    • 1
  • Jiangming Mo
    • 1
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Vegetation Restoration and Management of Degraded Ecosystems, South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesMarshall UniversityHuntingtonUSA

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