Discerning the Concentration and Bi-Directional Flux of Ammonia in an Urban Estuary Using the Relaxed Eddy Accumulation Method

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Narragansett Bay, the largest estuary in New England, is a heavily urbanized watershed impacted by deposition and runoff. Nutrient budgets and local policy rely on deposition data from a 1990 study that did not include any direct observations of dry deposition of gaseous ammonia (NH3(g)) and particulate ammonium (p-NH4+) due to uncertainties in their flux direction and measurement difficulty. Recent work has shown that wet deposition of ammonium (NH4+) to the Bay has increased by a factor of 6 over the past three decades, leading to a 2.5-fold increase in wet nitrogen (N) deposition. This documented increase in wet deposition of NH4+ is concurrent with managed nutrient reductions in urbanized estuaries but has potentially increased the impacts of atmospheric N deposition, including the dry deposition of NH3(g) and p-NH4+. However, the lack of NH3(g) and p-NH4+ measurements hinders our interpretation of this important N source. For the first time over Narragansett Bay, and to our knowledge over open water, dry (particulate and gas phase) total ammonia (NHx = NH3(g) + p-NH4+) and the bidirectional NH3(g) flux were quantified using a relaxed eddy accumulation sampling technique. We find that dry deposition of NHx comprises 9.6% of total (wet + dry) N deposition. During the fall season, the dominant flux direction for NH3(g) is upward, which also has implications for urban air quality. We estimate that NH3(g) emitted from the Bay to the atmosphere makes up to 10% of the local NH3(g) emission budget for fall.

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Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences