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ECN publication
Reduced nitrogen in ecology and the environment
Erisman, J.W.; Bleeker, A.; Galloway, J.N.; Sutton, M.
Published by: Publication date:
ECN Biomass, Coal and Environmental Research 26-8-2008
ECN report number: Document type:
ECN-W--08-048 Article (scientific)
Number of pages:

Published in: Environmental Pollution (Elsevier), , 2007, Vol.150, p.140-149.

Since the beginning of the 19th century humans have increasingly fixed atmospheric nitrogen as ammonia to be used as fertilizer. The fertilizers are necessary to create amino acids and carbohydrates in plants to feed animals and humans. The efficiency with which the fertilizers eventually reach humans is very small: 5e15%, with much of the remainder lost to the environment. The global industrial production of ammonia amounts to 117 Mton NH3-N year1 (for 2004). By comparison, we calculate that anthropogenic emissions of NH3 to the atmosphere over the lifecycle of industrial NH3 in agriculture are 45.3 Mton NH3-N year1, about half the industrial production. Once emitted ammonia has a central role in many environmental issues. We expect an increase in fertilizer use through increasing demands for food and biofuels as population increases. Therefore, management of ammonia or abatement is necessary.

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