Characteristics of dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen in precipitation in the northern Tibetan Plateau

Tanguang Gao, Shichang Kang, Rensheng Chen, Xiaoming Wang, Junhua Yang, Xi Luo, Xiaoxiang Wang, Rukumesh Paudyal, Chuntan Han, Ruixia He, Mika Sillanpää, Yulan Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and nitrogen (N) play essential roles in global C and N cycles. To address the possible role of DOC and N in precipitation and enrich the related global database, the characteristics of DOC and N in precipitation were investigated in a typical remote permafrost region (upper Heihe River Basin) of the northern Tibetan Plateau (TP) from February 2019 to March 2020. The results demonstrated that the average DOC and total dissolved N (TDN) concentrations in the precipitation were 1.41 ± 1.09 μg mL−1 and 0.84 ± 0.48 μg mL−1, respectively, with relatively lower concentrations in the summer. The annual DOC and TDN fluxes were estimated to be 6.42 kg ha−1 yr−1 and 3.39 kg ha−1 yr−1, respectively, indicating that precipitation was a significant factor in C and N deposition. The light-absorbing properties of precipitation DOC from the SUVA254 and spectral slope revealed that precipitation DOC containing more aromatic components and lower molecular weights mostly was present during the summer; the mass cross-section (at the wavelength of 365 nm) ranged 0.26–1.84 m2 g−1, suggesting the potential impact of DOC on climatic forcing in the area. The principal component analysis combined with air mass backward trajectories indicated that the air masses from west Siberia, Central Asia, and northwestern China most significantly influenced the precipitation C and N in the study area. The WRF-Chem simulations and aerosol vertical distributions further illustrated the air mass transport pathways, demonstrating that dust and anthropogenic emissions could be transported over the studied area by westerlies and monsoonal winds. In the study basin, the precipitation deposition of DOC and N contributed largely to the riverine DOC and N exportation during the summer and had potential ecological effects. These results highlight the importance of DOC and N deposition from precipitation in the northern TP.

Original languageEnglish
Article number145911
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Dissolved organic carbon
  • Nitrogen
  • Permafrost
  • Precipitation
  • Tibetan Plateau

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


Dive into the research topics of 'Characteristics of dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen in precipitation in the northern Tibetan Plateau'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this