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Ambient ammonia in terrestrial ecosystems: A comparative study in the Tennessee Valley, USA

Allen, Ridwaana, Myles, LaToya, Heuer, Mark W.
The Science of the total environment 2011 v.409 no.14 pp. 2768-2772
air quality, air temperature, ammonia, ecosystems, environmental impact, forests, highways, rural areas, summer, topography, valleys, wind direction, Tennessee
Atmospheric ammonia has been shown to degrade regional air quality and affect environmental health. In-situ measurements of ammonia are needed to determine how ambient concentrations vary in different ecosystems and the extent to which emission sources contribute to those levels. The objective of this study was to measure and compare ammonia concentrations in two Tennessee Valley (USA) ecosystems: a forested rural area and a metropolitan site adjacent to a main transportation route. Integrated samples of atmospheric ammonia were collected with annular denuder systems for ~4weeks during the summer of 2009 in both ecosystems. Ancillary measurements of meteorological variables, such as wind direction and precipitation, were also conducted to determine any relationships with ammonia concentration. Measurements in the two ecosystems revealed ammonia concentrations that were mostly representative of background levels. Arithmetic means were 1.57±0.68μgm⁻³ at the metropolitan site and 1.60±0.77μgm⁻³ in the forest. The geometric mean concentrations for both sites were ~1.46μgm⁻³. Wind direction, and to a lesser extent air temperature and precipitation, did influence measured concentrations. At the metropolitan site, ammonia concentrations were slightly higher in winds emanating from the direction of the interstate highway. Meteorological variables, such as wind direction, and physical factors, such as topography, can affect measurement of ambient ammonia concentrations, especially in ecosystems distant from strong emission sources. The 12-h integrated sampling method used in this study was unable to measure frequent changes in ambient ammonia concentrations and illustrates the need for measurements with higher temporal resolution, at least ~1–2h, in a variety of diverse ecosystems to determine the behavior of atmospheric ammonia and its environmental effects.