The ecological effects of elevated atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition on high-elevation lakes of the western and northeastern United States include nutrient enrichment and acidification. The nutrient enrichment critical load for western lakes ranged from 1.0 to 3.0 kilograms (kg) of N per hectare (ha) per year, reflecting the nearly nonexistent watershed vegetation in complex, snowmelt-dominated terrain. The nutrient enrichment critical load for northeastern lakes ranged from 3.5 to 6.0 kg N per ha per year. The N acidification critical loads associated with episodic N pulses in waters with low values of acid neutralizing capacity were 4.0 kg N per ha per year (western) and 8.0 kg N per ha per year (northeastern). The empirical critical loads for N-caused acidification were difficult to determine because of a lack of observations in the West, and high sulfur deposition in the East. For both nutrient enrichment and acidification, the N critical load was a function of how atmospheric N deposition was determined.
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Vol. 61 • No. 8