It is not surprising that humans have profoundly altered the global nitrogen (N) cycle in an effort to feed 7 billion people, because nitrogen is an essential plant and animal nutrient. Food and energy production from agriculture, combined with industrial and energy sources, have more than doubled the amount of reactive nitrogen circulating annually on land. Humanity has disrupted the nitrogen cycle even more than the carbon (C) cycle. We present new research results showing widespread effects on ecosystems, biodiversity, human health, and climate, suggesting that in spite of decades of research quantifying the negative consequences of too much available nitrogen in the biosphere, solutions remain elusive. There have been important successes in reducing nitrogen emissions to the atmosphere and this has improved air quality. Effective solutions for reducing nitrogen losses from agriculture have also been identified, although political and economic impediments to their adoption remain.
Number of Pages
Minnesota Water Research Digital Library