Review abstract

Nature Geoscience 1, 430 - 437 (2008)
Published online: 22 June 2008 | doi:10.1038/ngeo230

Subject Categories: Biogeochemistry | Climate science

Global nitrogen deposition and carbon sinks

Dave S. Reay1, Frank Dentener2, Pete Smith3, John Grace1 & Richard A. Feely4

Land and ocean uptake of carbon dioxide plays a critical role in determining atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Future increases in nitrogen deposition have been predicted to increase the size of these terrestrial and marine carbon sinks, but although higher rates of nitrogen deposition might enhance carbon uptake in northern and tropical forests, they will probably have less of an impact on ocean sink strength. Combined, the land and ocean sinks may sequester an additional 10% of anthropogenic cabon emissions by 2030 owing to increased nitrogen inputs, but a more conservative estimate of 1 to 2% is more likely. Thus nitrogen-induced increases in the strength of land and ocean sinks are unlikely to keep pace with future increases in carbon dioxide.

  1. School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JN, UK
  2. European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Climate Change Unit, via Enrico Fermi 1, I-21020 Ispra, TP 290, Italy
  3. Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Cruickshank Building, St Machar Drive, Aberdeen, AB24 3UU, UK
  4. Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, 7600 Sand Point Way NE Seattle, Washington 98115, USA

Correspondence to: Dave S. Reay1 e-mail:


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