Simulated global coastal ecosystem responses to a half-century increase in river nitrogen loads

Geophysical Research Letters
By: , and 



Coastal ecosystems are increasingly threatened by anthropogenic stressors such as harmful algal blooms and hypoxia projected to intensify through the combined effects of eutrophication and warming. As a major terrestrial nitrogen (N) source to the ocean, rivers play a critical role in shaping both coastal and global biogeochemical cycling. Combining an enhanced-resolution (1/4°), global ocean physical-biogeochemical model with dynamic river inputs, we estimate that elevated river nitrogen loads alone resulted in an increase of 16.6 Tg (+5.8%) in the global coastal nitrogen inventory (CNI) over the half century between 1961 and 2010. This change was accompanied by increases in coastal net primary productivity (NPP, +4.6%) and benthic detrital flux (BDF, +7.3%), the latter of which is indicative of an overall higher oxygen demand in coastal sediments. After normalization by area, the ecosystems most sensitive to added river nitrogen (g N m-2 yr-1) were those with long residence times and strong nitrogen limitation. While even enhanced-resolution global models remain limited in their capacity to resolve near-shore responses, these basic sensitivity factors provide two relevant axes for frameworks assessing the comparative susceptibility of globally distributed coastal ecosystems to enhanced nitrogen loading, and the effectiveness of mitigation strategies.
Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Simulated global coastal ecosystem responses to a half-century increase in river nitrogen loads
Series title Geophysical Research Letters
DOI 10.1029/2021GL094367
Volume 48
Issue 17
Year Published 2022
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Contributing office(s) WMA - Integrated Modeling and Prediction Division
Description e2021GL094367, 14 p.
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