Ecological effects of nitrogen and sulfur air pollution in the US: What do we know?
Four decades after the passage of the US Clean Air Act, air-quality standards are set to protect ecosystems from damage caused by gas-phase nitrogen (N) and sulfur (S) compounds, but not from the deposition of these air pollutants to land and water. Here, we synthesize recent scientific literature on the ecological effects of N and S air pollution in the US. Deposition of N and S is the main driver of ecosystem acidification and contributes to nutrient enrichment in many natural systems. Although surface-water acidification has decreased in the US since 1990, it remains a problem in many regions. Perturbations to ecosystems caused by the nutrient effects of N deposition continue to emerge, although gas-phase concentrations are generally not high enough to cause phytotoxicity. In all, there is overwhelming evidence of a broad range of damaging effects to ecosystems in the US under current air-quality conditions.