Atmospheric black carbon deposition and characterization of biomass burning tracers in a northern temperate forest

F. Santos, Matthew Fraser, J. A. Bird

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Aerosol black carbon (BC) is considered the second largest contributor to global warming after CO2, and is known to increase the atmosphere's temperature, decrease the albedo in snow/ice, and influence the properties and distribution of clouds. BC is thought to have a long mean residence time in soils, and its apparent stability may represent a significant stable sink for atmospheric CO2. Despite recent efforts to quantify BC in the environment, the quantification of BC deposition rates from the atmosphere to terrestrial ecosystems remains scarse. To better understand the contribution of atmospheric BC inputs to soils via dry deposition and its dominant emission sources, atmospheric fine particle (PM2.5) were collected at the University of Michigan Biological Station from July to September in 2010 and 2011. PM2.5 samples were analyzed for organic C, BC, and molecular markers including particulate sugars, carboxylic acids, n-alkanes, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and cholestane. Average atmospheric BC concentrations in northern Michigan were 0.048±0.06μgm-3 in summer 2010, and 0.049±0.064μgm-3 in summer 2011. Based on atmospheric concentrations, particulate deposition calculations, and documented soil BC, we conclude that atmospheric deposition is unlikely to comprise a significant input pathway for BC in northern forest ecosystem. The major organic tracers identified in fine particulates (e.g. levoglucosan and docosanoic acid) suggest that ambient PM2.5 concentrations were mainly influenced by biomass burning and epicuticular plant waxes. These results provide baseline data needed for future assessments of atmospheric BC in rural temperate forests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)383-390
Number of pages8
JournalAtmospheric Environment
StatePublished - Oct 2014


  • Atmospheric black carbon deposition
  • Biogenic emission
  • Docosanoic acid
  • Elemental carbon
  • Levoglucosan
  • Molecular markers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science


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