Tracing Atmospheric Nitrate Deposition in a Complex Semiarid Ecosystem Using Δ17O

Greg Michalski, Thomas Meixner, Mark Fenn, Larry Hernandez, Abby Sirulnik, Edith Allen, Mark Thiemens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Scopus citations


The isotopic composition of nitrate collected from aerosols, fog, and precipitation was measured and found to have a large 17O anomaly with Δ17O values ranging from 20‰p to 30‰ (Δ17O = δ17O - 0.52(δ18O)). This 17O anomaly was used to trace atmospheric deposition of nitrate to a semiarid ecosystem in southern California. We demonstrate that the Δ17O signal is a conserved tracer of atmospheric nitrate deposition and is a more robust indicator of N deposition relative to standard δ18O techniques. The data indicate that a substantial portion of nitrate found in the local soil, stream, and groundwater is of atmospheric origin and does not undergo biologic processing before being exported from the system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2175-2181
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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