There has been much talk about the increasing levels of nitrogen in the atmosphere. It is said that we, as humans, are altering the global nitrogen cycle. I have read the first issue of the Issues in Ecology which is "Human Alteration of the Global Nitrogen Cycle." I will give a brief overview of the Causes and Consequences of the increasing levels of nitrogen in the atmosphere and I will give my opinion on what should be done to slow the pace of the increasing levels of nitrogen.
Nitrogen gas makes up 78 percent of the Earth's atmosphere. Most plants and animals can't use nitrogen gas directly from the air. They have to wait until the nitrogen is fixed. This is done by way of the nitrogen cycle. Many human activities are causing the levels of nitrogen gas to increase.
The two main human activities that are causing the nitrogen levels in the atmosphere to increase are the production and use of nitrogen fertilizers and the burning of fossil fuels in automobiles, power generation plants, and industries.
These two human activities have and will continue to cause long-term environmental problems in large regions of the earth.
Nitrogen fertilizers are used to aid plants in growth. Nitrogen fertilizer is used greatly throughout the world. The use of this fertilizer has become a problem because too much fixed nitrogen is being released back into the earth's atmosphere causing an imbalance in the nitrogen levels in the atmosphere. The over-use of this fertilizer also causes a loss of soil nutrients, such as calcium and potassium that are essential for long-term soil fertility.
Fossil fuels are used for many different things in the world we live in today. We need fossil fuels for automobiles, industries, and power plants, but the burning of fossil fuels, just like nitrogen fertilizers, releases fixed nitrogen back into the atmosphere. The levels of fixed nitrogen released from the soil because of the added nitrogen from the fertilizer, and the levels of nitrogen released from the burning of fossil fuels mixes with the fixed nitrogen in the atmosphere by way of natural processes and cause many problems in the atmosphere, in animal habitats, and in vegetation around the world.
The problems that have been identified because of the human domination of the nitrogen cycle include increased global concentrations of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, in the atmosphere as well as increased regional concentrations of other oxides of nitrogen that drive the formation of photochemical smog, substantial acidification of soils and of the waters of streams and lakes in several regions, loss of some plant species, and accelerated losses of biological diversity, especially among plants adapted to low nitrogen soils, and subsequently, the animals and microbes that depend on these plants.
The article list several options on ways to control human alteration of the global nitrogen cycle. The article states that National and international policies should attempt to reduce these impacts through the development and widespread dissemination of more efficient fossil fuel combustion technologies and farm management practices that reduce the burgeoning demand for and release of nitrogenous fertilizers. I agree with these options but in my opinion I think the government should limit farmers to a certain amount of nitrogen fertilizer used on their crops per year. This won't necessarily stop the high levels of nitrogen being released into the atmosphere but it will slow the pace of the levels of fixed nitrogen being released into the atmosphere by way of nitrogen fertilizer added to the soil. As far as the burning of fossil fuels go, I would have to agree with the author of the article because the only way to stop the increasing levels of nitrogen released into the atmosphere by way of fossil fuel burning is to stop burning fossil fuels and there is no way that is going to happen, so to control the increasing levels of nitrogen released into the atmosphere we would have to find more efficient fossil fuel combustion technologies.
We, as humans, need to take better pride in the environment and world we live in. If we want to continue to breathe some what clean air and maintain a suitable living environment we have to practice controlling what we do to our environment. That is the only way we will maintain a suitable and happy living place.