Atmospheric deposition of carbon and nutrients across an arid metropolitan area

Kathleen A. Lohse, Diane Hope, Ryan Sponseller, Jonathan O. Allen, Nancy Grimm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Urbanization is increasing rapidly in semi-arid environments and is predicted to alter atmospheric deposition of nutrients and pollutants to cities as well as to ecosystems downwind. We examined patterns of wet and coarse dry deposition chemistry over a five-year period at 7 sites across the Central Arizona-Phoenix (CAP) study area, one of two urban sites within the National Science Foundation's Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program. Wet and dry deposition of organic carbon (oC) were significantly elevated in the urban core; in contrast, mean annual wet and dry fluxes of nitrogen (N) were low (< 6 kg ha- 1 yr- 1) compared to previous estimates and did not differ significantly among sites. Wet deposition of sulfate (SO42-) was high across CAP (mean 1.39 kg ha- 1 yr- 1 as S) and represented the dominant anion in rainfall. Dry deposition rates did not show strong seasonal trends with the exception of oC, which was 3-fold higher in winter than in summer; ammonium (NH4+) deposition was high but more variable. Dry deposition of NO3- and oC was strongly correlated with particulate base cations and dust-derived soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP), suggesting that urban-derived dust is scrubbing the atmosphere of acidic gases and entrained particles and increasing local deposition. Differences between measured and predicted rates of dry N deposition to the urban core may be explained by incomplete collection of gas phase N on surrogate deposition surfaces in this hot and arid environment. The extent of urban enhancement of cations and oC inputs to desert ecosystems appears to be restricted to the urbanized metropolitan area rather than extending far downwind, although a low number of sites make it difficult to resolve this spatial pattern. Nevertheless, wet and dry inputs may be important for biogeochemical cycles in nutrient and carbon-poor desert ecosystems within and near arid cities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-105
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 25 2008


  • Atmospheric deposition
  • Carbon
  • Cations
  • Nitrogen
  • Phoenix
  • Sonoran desert
  • Sulfate
  • Urban ecosystem

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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