Aerosols in atmospheric chemistry and biogeochemical cycles of nutrients

Kanakidou, Maria; Myriokefalitakis, Stelios; Tsigaridis, Kostas

Atmospheric aerosols have complex and variable compositions and properties. While scientific interest is centered on the health and climatic effects of atmospheric aerosols, insufficient attention is given to their involvement in multiphase chemistry that alters their contribution as carriers of nutrients in ecosystems. However, there is experimental proof that the nutrient equilibria of both land and marine ecosystems have been disturbed during the Anthropocene period.

This review study first summarizes our current understanding of aerosol chemical processing in the atmosphere as relevant to biogeochemical cycles. Then it binds together results of recent modeling studies based on laboratory and field experiments, focusing on the organic and dust components of aerosols that account for multiphase chemistry, aerosol ageing in the atmosphere, nutrient (N, P, Fe) emissions, atmospheric transport, transformation and deposition. The human-driven contribution to atmospheric deposition of these nutrients, derived by global simulations using past and future anthropogenic emissions of pollutants, is put into perspective with regard to potential changes in nutrient limitations and biodiversity. Atmospheric deposition of nutrients has been suggested to result in human-induced ecosystem limitations with regard to specific nutrients. Such modifications favor the development of certain species against others and affect the overall functioning of ecosystems. Organic forms of nutrients are found to contribute to the atmospheric deposition of the nutrients N, P and Fe by 20%–40%, 35%–45% and 7%–18%, respectively. These have the potential to be key components of the biogeochemical cycles since there is initial proof of their bioavailability to ecosystems. Bioaerosols have been found to make a significant contribution to atmospheric sources of N and P, indicating potentially significant interactions between terrestrial and marine ecosystems. These results deserve further experimental and modeling studies to reduce uncertainties and understand the feedbacks induced by atmospheric deposition of nutrients to ecosystems.


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Also Published In

Environmental Research Letters

More About This Work

Academic Units
Center for Climate Systems Research
Published Here
October 17, 2018