Aerosol Deposition Impacts on Land and Ocean Carbon Cycles

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Current Climate Change Reports







Publication Date



Aerosols, Biogeochemistry, Nutrients, Carbon Cycle

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Last Page



Purpose of Review Atmospheric aerosol deposition is an important source of nutrients and pollution to many continental and marine ecosystems. Humans have heavily perturbed the cycles of several important aerosol species, potentially affecting terrestrial and marine carbon budgets and consequently climate. The most ecologically important aerosol elements impacted by humans are nitrogen, sulfur, iron, phosphorus, and base cations. Here, we review the latest research on the modification of the atmospheric cycles of these aerosols and their resulting effects on continental and marine ecosystems. Recent Findings Recent studies have improved our understanding of how humans have perturbed atmospheric aerosol cycles and how they may continue to evolve in the future. Research in both aquatic and terrestrial environments has highlighted the role of atmospheric deposition as a nutrient subsidy, with effects on ecosystem productivity. These studies further emphasize the importance of local biogeochemical conditions and biota species composition to the regional responses to aerosol deposition. Summary The size of the impact of anthropogenic aerosol deposition on the carbon cycle and the resulting climate forcing is at present not well understood. It is estimated that increases in nutrient subsidies from atmospheric deposition across all ecosystems are causing an increase in carbon dioxide uptake between 0.2 and 1.5 PgC/year. As aerosol emissions from industrial sources are reduced to improve air quality, these enhancements in carbon uptake may be reduced in the future leading to reduced carbon dioxide emission offsets. However, large uncertainties remain, not only because of limited information on how humans have modified and will modify aerosol emissions, but also because of a lack of quantitative understanding of how aerosol deposition impacts carbon cycling in many ecosystems.

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