Source forensics of inorganic and organic nitrogen using δ15N for tropospheric aerosols over Mt. Tai

Libin Wu, Siyao Yue, Zongbo Shi, Wei Hu, Jing Chen, Hong Ren, Junjun Deng, Lujie Ren, Yunting Fang, Hong Yan, Weijun Li, Roy M. Harrison, Pingqing Fu*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Nitrogen-containing species are major components in atmospheric aerosols. However, little is known about the sources of N-containing aerosols over high mountainous regions, especially for organic nitrogen (ON). This study aims to reveal the emission sources of both inorganic and organic nitrogen in tropospheric aerosols atop Mt. Tai, China, and to improve our understanding of the N cycle imbalance in the North China Plain (NCP). Total suspended particle (TSP) samples were collected on a daytime/nighttime basis in spring 2017 and were investigated for the concentrations and stable N isotopic compositions of total nitrogen, NH4+, NO3 and ON. Our results show that the concentrations of N-containing compounds were higher in daytime than nighttime, mainly resulting from mountain–valley breezes and the changes of planetary boundary layer height. However, no significant day/nighttime changes were found for their corresponding δ15N values, indicating similar contributions from different N sources between day and night. The MixSIAR Bayesian stable isotope mixing model results suggest that the most important emission source of NH3 for aerosol NH4+ was agriculture, followed by fossil fuel-related sources, human waste and biomass burning. Aerosol NO3 was mainly formed from combustion and mobile emitted NOx. Interestingly, the isotopes of ON suggest that ON were very likely firstly of primary origin. Our study reveals the characteristics of reactive N emission sources and helps understand the regional transport of tropospheric N-containing aerosols in the NCP.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8
Journalnpj Climate and Atmospheric Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Key R&D Program of China (Grant No. 2017YFC0212700), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41905110, 41625014, and 41961130384), the Royal Society Newton Advanced Fellowship (Grant No. NAF\R1\191220) and State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. SKLLQG1837). The authors received support from Shanfeng Yuan of Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences for meteorological data.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry


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