Aspects of uncertainty in total reactive nitrogen deposition estimates for North American critical load applications.Sci Total Environ 2019; 690:1005-1018ST
Determination of the amount of reactive nitrogen (Nr) deposition in excess of the ecosystem critical load (CL) requires an estimate of total deposition. Because the CL exceedance is used to inform policy decisions, uncertainty in both the CL and the exceedance itself must be understood. In this paper we review the state of the science with respect to the sources of uncertainty in total Nr deposition budgets used for CL assessments in North America and put forth recommendations for research and monitoring to improve deposition measurements and models. In the absence of methods to rigorously quantify uncertainty in total Nr deposition, a simple weighted deposition uncertainty metric (WDUM) is introduced as a tool for scientists and decision makers to use in assessing CL exceedances. Maps of the WDUM applied to National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP) Total Deposition (TDep) estimates show greater uncertainty in areas of the U.S. where dry deposition makes a larger contribution to the deposition budget, particularly ammonia (NH3) in agricultural areas and oxidized nitrogen (NOx) in urban areas. Organic N deposition is an important source of uncertainty over much of the U.S. Our analysis illustrates how the WDUM can be used to assess spatial patterns of deposition uncertainty and inform actions to improve deposition budgets for CL assessments at the local scale.