Research Coordination Network on Reactive Nitrogen.

RCN Logo

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has funded a 5-year project, beginning March 2011, to create a network of researchers who specialize in a wide range of disciplines pertaining to excess nitrogen in the environment, including aquatic and terrestrial ecology, agronomy, atmospheric chemistry, groundwater dynamics, engineering, epidemiology, and economics. We propose to partner with Resource Media, which has created Nitrogen News as part of a project supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Nitrogen News was created as a resource for journalists and bloggers covering nitrogen science and management policy.

RCN: Reactive Nitrogen in the Biosphere – Abstract

PI: Eric A. Davidson, The Woods Hole Research Center
coPI: Alan Townsend, University of Colorado

Steering committee members:
Jill Baron, USGS; Mark David, University of Illinois; Richard Haeuber, EPA; Robert Howarth, Cornell University; Richard Lowrance, USDA-ARS; Jennifer Peel, Colorado State University; Ellen Porter, US National Park Service; Richard Pouyat, USDA-FS; Clifford Snyder, International Plant Nutrition Inst., Penelope Whitney, Resource Media

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.

The Nitrogen footprint calculator (N-PRINT)

Jim Galloway (Univ. of Virginia) and colleagues have developed this tool to help communicate to the public the role that their actions have on the nitrogen cycle and the environment. Through this tool, we aim to educate people about nitrogen, how their lifestyles impact the nitrogen cycle, and how they can reduce their nitrogen footprint. The tool will be upgraded as our underlying scientific knowledge improves. You can view the N-Calculator at the following website:

A National Nitrogen Assessment for the USA

The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is tasked with producing a National Climate Assessment (NCA) in 2013. Due to the multiple interactions of nitrogen with climate change mitigation, adaptation, and impacts, we were invited by OSTP to submit a technical report that assesses nitrogen-interactions in the USA. The report was submitted on March 1, 2012, and is available for download here. Each of the seven chapters of the report has gone through peer review and will soon be available here and on the web site for the journal, Biogeochemistry. This assessment of climate-nitrogen interactions represents the first installment of a national nitrogen assessment for the USA. Subsequent RCN workshop products will provide additional installments. View Report.

Future Collaboration with Canada

Our Canadian colleagues have been conducting national N assessment activities under the umbrella of Canada’s participation in the UNECE Task Force on Reactive N (TFRN). The US also participates in TFRN. Although we have no joint projects at this moment, we aspire to coordinate US and Canadian N assessment activities and interests within the North American Center for the INI.