Riverine nitrogen dynamics (Howarth/Marino Lab)

Program or topic

Riverine nitrogen dynamics (Howarth/Marino Lab)

Department(s) or unit(s)

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Contact information

Program goals

Determine how climatic variation and change affects coastal nitrogen pollution.

Brief Description

Nitrogen is the largest pollution problem in coastal waters of the United States with an estimated two-thirds of U.S. coastal rivers and bays moderately or severely degraded. Sources of N pollution include sewage discharges, runoff from agricultural fields and feed lots, and atmospheric deposition. However, the relative importance of individual sources is poorly known for many watersheds and a better assessment of sources and the climatic factors that influence the delivery of nitrogen to coastal ecosystems is essential for more cost-effective management of nitrogen pollution.

The Howarth/ Marino lab (EEB) is active in several projects, in collaboration with other labs participating in Cornell University’s Agricultural Ecology Program (AEP), the NOAA Coastal Hypoxia Program, and the Woods Hole SeaGrant Program, to better determine the sources of nutrient pollution (particularly nitrogen) to coastal waters, to determine how climatic variation and change affects the delivery of this pollution to the coast, and to provide practical approaches for managers to use to reduce the problem. We have used a variety of approaches including field work on atmospheric deposition of nitrogen and the development and refinement of the SCOPE/NANI and ReNuMa models

Our recent work indicates that watersheds in wetter environments export a significantly larger portion of the net anthropogenic nitrogen inputs to them (~35 percent to 40 percent, vs. 10 percent to 20 percent in more dry environments). We have projected that future climate change, which is likely to lead to more wet environments in the northeast U.S., may partially, or even totally undermine management efforts to reduce nitrogen pollution.

For more information

For more information, please visit the project pages:



Category: Agriculture/Farming, Ecosystems, Freshwater, Marine, Soil/fertilizer/manure, Water/flooding

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