National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2015

Increasing anthropogenic nitrogen in the North Pacific Ocean

Kim, I.-N., K. Lee, N. Gruber, D.M. Karl, J.L. Bullister, S. Yang, and T.-W. Kim

Science, 346(6213), 1102–1106, doi: 10.1126/science.1258396 (2014)

The recent increase in anthropogenic emissions of reactive nitrogen from northeastern Asia and the subsequent enhanced deposition over the extensive regions of the North Pacific Ocean (NPO) have led to a detectable increase in the nitrate (N) concentration of the upper ocean. The rate of increase of excess N relative to phosphate (P) was found to be highest (∼0.24 micromoles per kilogram per year) in the vicinity of the Asian source continent, with rates decreasing eastward across the NPO, consistent with the magnitude and distribution of atmospheric nitrogen deposition. This anthropogenically driven increase in the N content of the upper NPO may enhance primary production in this N-limited region, potentially leading to a long-term change of the NPO from being N-limited to P-limited.

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