Nitrogen Out of the Bottle: The Challenge of Managing the Genie

Thursday, October 31, 2013
3:40 PM - 4:30 PM
James Hall, Room G46
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Jen Bourgeault
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    Human activity converts more N2 to reactive nitrogen (Nr; all nitrogen species other than N2) than do natural terrestrial processes (mostly biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) in unmanaged ecosystems).  Most of the Nr is created as a consequence of food production, fossil fuel combustion and industrial demands.  The Haber-Bosch process, invented in the early 20th century, now provides a virtually inexhaustible supply of nitrogen fertilizer. This one invention is responsible for the existence of about half of the world’s population. That’s the good news. The other news is that most of this nitrogen (and additional amounts from fossil fuel combustion and industry) is lost to the environment where it has exceeded the ability of the environment to convert it back to unreactive N2.  The accumulating Nr contributes to smog, greenhouse effect, ecosystem eutrophication, acid rain and loss of stratospheric ozone in a sequential manner—the nitrogen cascade.  Collectively these changes alter climate, decrease air quality, and diminish ecosystem sustainability.  The challenge is how do we manage the genie—make sure we get the benefits of nitrogen, while minimizing the problems it causes.

    The presentation will layout the possible, the probable and the improbable (but if it occurred, would be transformative) options for nitrogen management.  Included will be the roles that consumers, institutions and nations can play.  The presentation will also give examples of success stories, where nitrogen losses to the environment have been decreased, without impacting the service being provided—food and energy production. 
    (hosted by Christopher Dorich )

    The Fall Environmental Sciences Seminar Series is sponsored by the NRESS Ph.D. Program, the Earth Systems Research Center (ESRC), the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, and the Department of Earth Sciences.

    These seminars are open to the public and will be held Fridays at 3:10 pm in Pettee G10, unless otherwise noted.

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