The North American Nitrogen Center, established early in 2004 and currently coordinated by Eric Davidson at the Woods Hole Research Center*, is one of five globally distributed centers of the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI) sponsored by the International Council of Science (ICSU) through the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) and the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP). Globally, the nitrogen cycle is the most altered of any major element cycle. Humans have mobilized nitrogen by making fertilizers for increasing crop production and by burning fossil fuels for transportation and industry. While these activities yield tremendous benefit to humanity, they also inadvertently lead to a significant fraction of this nitrogen leaking into the environment, where it has unintended negative consequences. These impacts include pollution of air, water, and soil, which affect the health of humans and ecosystems. The North American Nitrogen Center is charged with assessing how human activity has altered nitrogen flows within North America, determining the environmental, human health, and economic consequences of this alteration, and helping to develop solutions to reduce the problem.
The Center will work collaboratively with other institutions and organizations whenever appropriate and will coordinate closely with other INI regional centers to promote comprehensive analysis of problems associated with too much and too little nitrogen in various parts of the world.