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RCN: Reactive Nitrogen in the Biosphere

Posted by | February 21, 2021

Principal investigators: Eric A. Davidson, The Woods Hole Research Center; Alan Townsend, University of Colorado

Associated with: The National Science Foundation (NSF)

Project Summary:

Demand for nitrogen fertilizers is increasing in response to growing human population, improving diets, and expanding biofuel crop production. Unfortunately, only about half of the applied nitrogen is used by crops, and the rest is unintentionally released to groundwater, rivers, and to the air, where it presents problems for human health and ecosystem health. Burning fossil fuels for industry and transportation also releases nitrogen into the air, which falls on soils and water bodies. The objective of this research coordination network is to engage a community of researchers from many disciplines, including atmospheric chemistry, agronomy, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, social science, and human and wildlife health, who individually study aspects of this issue, but whose collective, inter-disciplinary synthesis is needed to define integrative potential solutions. A series of workshops will be convened on topics such as impacts of excess nitrogen on climate, air pollution, water pollution, and agricultural production. Framing the scientific issues of excess nitrogen in the environment in a context relevant to human and ecosystem health will increase understanding for both scientific and non-scientific audiences of the extent of the health and pollution problems associated with excess nitrogen, as well as options and trade-offs for finding solutions.