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Humans, Hydrology, and the Distribution of Inorganic Nutrient Loading to the Ocean

This peer-reviewed article from BioScience is about the distribution of global nutrient loading in the ocean and human influence. Most modern estimates of dissolved nitrogen and phosphorus delivery to the ocean use Meybeck's estimates from approximately 30 large rivers. We have derived an extended database of approximately 165 sites with nutrient loads. For both dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) and dissolved inorganic phosphorus (DIP), the logarithmic yields (log [load/area]) can be parameterized as functions of log (population density) and log (runoff/area) (R2 for DIN and DIP approximately 0.6). Landscape production of DIN and DIP is largely assimilated. Even though DIN and DIP follow substantially different biogeochemical cycles, loading for DIN and DIP is tightly coupled (R2 for log DIN versus log DIP approximately 0.8), with a constant loading ratio of about 18:1. Estimates of DIN and DIP fluxes are distributed globally around the world coastlines by using basin population density and runoff at 0.5 increments of latitude and longitude. We estimate that total loads for the 1990s are about three times Meybeck's estimates for the 1970s.

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