Do nutrient limitation patterns shift from nitrogen toward phosphorus with increasing nitrogen deposition across the northeastern United States?
Atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition is altering biogeochemical cycling in forests and interconnected lakes of the northeastern US, and may shift nutrient limitation from N toward other essential elements, such as phosphorus (P). Whether this shift is occurring relative to N deposition gradients across the northeastern US has not been investigated. We used datasets for the northeastern US and the Adirondack sub-region to evaluate whether P limitation is increasing where N deposition is high at two geographic scales, based on N:P mass ratios. Using a model-selection approach, we determined that foliar N for dominant tree species and lake dissolved inorganic N (DIN) increased coincident with increasing N deposition, independent of relationships between foliar N or lake DIN and precipitation or temperature. Foliar P also increased with N deposition across the northeastern US for seven of eight deciduous species, but changed less across the Adirondacks.