Sources of aerosol nitrate to the Gulf of Aqaba: Evidence from ?15N and ?18O of nitrate and trace metal chemistry Academic Article uri icon


  • The nitrogen (N) and oxygen (O) isotopic composition (delta N-15 and delta O-18) of water soluble aerosol nitrate was measured in aerosol samples collected in Eilat. Israel, from August 2003 to November 2004. During this period delta N-15 values ranged from -6.9 parts per thousand to + 1.9 parts per thousand and delta O-18 from + 65 parts per thousand to + 84.9 parts per thousand and exhibited strong seasonal variability with higher average delta N-15 values observed in the summer and higher delta O-18 values in the winter. Nitrate isotopic composition was compared with bulk chemical composition and extractable ion and trace metals on co-collected samples linking nitrate isotopic composition to various sources of aerosols to this region. Atmospheric processes impacting the isotopic signatures of nitrate were also considered. Based on back trajectory analyses, the majority of NO3- came from air masses originating over the Mediterranean Sea (34%), Western Europe (20%) and the local Negev desert (19%), which contain a larger anthropogenic imprint compared to southern and eastern air masses which are dominated by mineral dust. The potential role of reactive mineral dust aerosols as a regulator of NOT isotopic composition is considered: however, based on factor analysis, neither ON nor 6180 were associated with mineral dust components (such as Fe or Al), but rather with anthropogenic indicators such as Cu, Cd, P and Pb. Seasonality in primary NOx, cycling reactions driven by seasonal changes in solar radiation, relative humidity and temperature also influence the observed isotopic signatures. The isotope data, together with trace element analysis, suggests that seasonal variations in both delta N-15(NO3) and delta O-18(NO3) are related to both NOx source and transport processes as well as NO., chemical reactions in the atmosphere. The flux-weighted delta N-15 of aerosol NOT in this area averaged 2.6 parts per thousand making aerosol deposition a substantial contributor of low delta N-15 nitrogen to the oligotrophic waters of the Gulf of Aqaba. Thus, while the flux of atmospheric N to oligotrophic marine systems is smaller than the upward flux of NO3- from deep water, it nonetheless represents an important source of new N having a low delta N-15. Further, if this low delta N-15 signature is not considered, it could interfere with N-fixation estimates based on isotopic composition of dissolved nitrate or particulate organic nitrogen. Thus, atmospheric deposition should be constrained for accurate estimates of marine N-fixation when based on ON in the ocean. Indeed, in the Gulf of Aqaba, low upper water delta N-15(NO3) values could be related to inputs of atmospheric NO3- as well as N-fixation. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • June 2010