deposition has been historically underestimated as an input to many estuaries, particularly by the indirect pathway of nitrogen deposited onto the landscape and then exported to the estuary. Recent evidence also indicates that per unit input to the landscape, nitrogen from fossil-fuel combustion is more important than nitrogen from fertilizer and, in turn, contributes disproportionately in the input of nitrogen to coastal waters.
Much uncertainly remains regarding the fluxes of nitrogen from the atmosphere to the landscape and to estuaries, and this is a critically important research priority. Although understanding some details regarding the atmospheric transport and fate of biologically available nitrogen will require additional research, the significant role atmospheric deposition of nitrogen plays in nutrient over-enrichment in some regions is clear. Addressing this component of the problem will require coordinated efforts over many states, clearly dictating a federal role in the effort. The regional nature of the atmospheric component of nitrogen loading argues that nutrient management should be a significant component of efforts to reduce air pollution and should be a key consideration during re-authorization of the Clean Air Act.
In general, sources of nutrients to estuaries have been poorly characterized, and in some cases sources have been mistakenly characterized because some land-use export-coefficient models used for characterization are inadequately verified. There are currently no easy-to-use and reliable methods for the manager of an estuary to determine the sources of nutrients flowing into that estuary. As will be discussed in Chapter 8, enhanced and coordinated monitoring efforts will be a key component of any local, regional, or national effort to reduce the impacts of nutrient over-enrichment.
Some critical questions related to understanding the sources of nutrients most affecting eutrophication and other impacts of nutrient over-enrichment remain unanswered. For instance, nitrogen deposition and fate in urban and suburban areas is poorly known, and wet nitrogen deposition in coastal areas is poorly understood. There is only a limited understanding of dry deposition in any environment, and understanding this in coastal areas and over water is challenging. Research efforts to expand understanding of atmospheric deposition of nitrogen should be expanded.
Changes in agricultural production systems are concentrating large amounts of nutrients in localized areas, thereby increasing the risk of nutrient leakage to the environment. Most of this concentration is associated with animal feedlots and with the long-distance transport of feedstocks. Changes in farm practices are driven by economics, and this concentration and long-range transport provide economic advantages to