Nitrogen isotope characteristics and source apportionment of atmospheric ammonium in urban cities during a haze event in Northern China Plain

Yan Kun Xiang, Xu Dao, Meng Gao, Yu-Chi Lin, Fang Cao, Xiao Ying Yang, Yan-Lin Zhang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Ammonium (NH4+) is a well-known alkaline species for haze formation and possesses potential impacts on human health and biological diversity. To date, regional source apportionments of NH4+ have been poorly understood in Northern China Plain (NCP). In this study, daily PM2.5 samples were synchronously collected in eight cities over the NCP region. In addition to water-soluble ions, the nitrogen isotopic composition of NH4+15N–NH4+) was also analyzed. The average concentrations of NH4+, a targeted species, varied from 0.9 μg/m³ to 42.5 μg/m³. Note that the significant enhancements of NH4+ coincided with increasing PM2.5 masses, suggesting that NH4+ was one of the contributing species for haze formation. The δ15N–NH4+averaged 12.4 ± 6.9‰ and the average δ15N–NH3 were further calculated to be −9.0 ± 6.7‰ over the NCP region. Both δ15N–NH4+ and δ15N–NH3 showed negative correlations with PM2.5 mass and there were no obvious differences among those 8 cities. Combining air-mass backward trajectories and quantifying contributions of potential sources, we pointed out that non-agricultural sources (fossil fuel related and NH3 slip) were dominant sources (totally contributed 42%–85%) not only on extreme haze phase but also on haze accumulation/dissipation phase in all 8 cities of NCP region in winter, the heating season in North China. However, the contribution of fossil fuel related source reduced to only 20%–35% while livestock breeding source rose to about 15%–32% and NH3 slip source kept contributing about 30% on the extreme haze phase. Thus, we considered that volatilization-related agricultural sources (especially livestock breeding) could discharge considerable NH3 to form SIA-led haze event in urban cities of the NCP region, even though non-agricultural sources were the foremost sources.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118800
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2022

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Particulate ammonium
  • Urban ammonia
  • δ15N–NH4+
  • δ15N–NH3


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