Imbalanced phosphorus and nitrogen deposition in China's forests

Enzai Du*, Wim de Vries, Wenxuan Han, Xuejun Liu, Zhengbing Yan, Yuan Jiang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

106 Citations (Scopus)


Acceleration of anthropogenic emissions in China has substantially increased nitrogen (N) deposition during the last 3 decades and may result in an imbalance of atmospheric N and phosphorus (P) inputs in terrestrial ecosystems. However, the status of P deposition in China is poorly understood. This study synthesized data on total P and total N concentrations in bulk precipitation and throughfall from published literature to assess the characteristics of P deposition, N deposition and N:P deposition ratio in China's forests. Our results show relatively high mean rates of bulk P deposition (0.38kgPha-1yr-1) and total P deposition (0.69kgPha-1yr-1), but they were accompanied by even more elevated N inputs via bulk deposition (16.5kgNha-1yr-1) and total deposition (21.6kgNha-1yr-1), resulting in high N:P ratios in bulk deposition (44.4) and total deposition (32.8). Based on the difference between total deposition and bulk deposition, canopy-captured dry P and N deposition was estimated to be 0.31kgPha-1yr-1 and 5.1kgNha-1yr-1, respectively. We found significantly higher P deposition and lower N:P ratios at sites nearby than those far from semiarid regions. The estimated bulk and total deposition of P and N both showed a significant power-law increase with decreasing distance to the nearest large cities either in the areas nearby or far from semiarid regions. Our results suggest an anthropogenic alternation of regional P and N cycling, which may shift large areas of China's forests towards human-induced P limitation especially in southern China.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8571-8579
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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