Title: Nitrogen: too much of a vital resource
Publisher: WWF Netherlands
Publication Year: 2015
JRC N°: JRC95628
ISBN: 978-90-74595-22-3
URI: http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/handle/JRC95628
Type: Books
Abstract: By the turn of the 19th century, the natural sources of fixed nitrogen were not sufficient for the food production needs of a rapidly increasing human population in Western Europe. The development and adoption of a process to produce and use synthetic N fertilizers, led to a dramatic increase in agricultural productivity. On the positive side, the human creation of reactive N has enabled the production of more foods and a change to more protein rich diets. However, there are still large parts of the world where there is a shortage of food and people suffer from malnutrition. On a global scale, the negative consequences of human-generated nitrogen are becoming ever more apparent. Numerous, often interlinked, thresholds for human and ecosystem health have been exceeded due to excess reactive nitrogen pollution, including thresholds for drinking water quality (due to nitrates) and air quality (smog, particulate matter, ground-level ozone). Eutrophication of freshwater and coastal ecosystems (dead zones), climate change and stratospheric ozone depletion are also consequences of the human modified Nr cycle. Reactive nitrogen is also a significant driver of biodiversity loss through acidification and eutrophication. It is now clear that the nitrogen problem is one of the most pressing environmental issues that we face. But in spite of the enormity of our influence on the N cycle and consequent implications for the environment and for human well-being, there is surprisingly little attention paid to the issue. Immediate action is needed to reduce the use of reactive nitrogen, to better manage nitrogen losses in order to limit its cascading effects, and to educate people about synthetic nitrogen and the trade-offs that it represents. This paper aims to contribute to the understanding of the N challenge, and to provide options for decreasing the negative impacts of excess N.
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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