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Nitrogen Overload: Environmental Degradation, Ramifications, and Economic Costs





Nitrogen Overload: Environmental Degradation, Ramifications, and Economic Costs

Brian G Katz

ISBN: 978-1-119-51396-4 February 2020 American Geophysical Union 272 Pages

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An integrated approach to understanding and mitigating the problem of excess nitrogen

Human activities generate large amounts of excess nitrogen, which has dramatically altered the nitrogen cycle. Reactive forms of nitrogen, especially nitrate and ammonia, are particularly detrimental. Given the magnitude of the problem, there is an urgent need for information on reactive nitrogen and its effective management. 

Nitrogen Overload: Environmental Degradation, Ramifications, and Economic Costs presents an integrated, multidisciplinary review of alterations to the nitrogen cycle over the past century and the wide-ranging consequences of nitrogen-based pollution, especially to aquatic ecosystems and human health.

Volume highlights include:

  • Comprehensive background information on the nitrogen cycle
  • Detailed description of anthropogenic nitrogen sources
  • Review of the environmental, economic, and health impacts of nitrogen pollution
  • Recommendations and strategies for reducing humanity’s nitrogen footprint
  • Discussion of national nitrogen footprints and worldwide examples of mitigation policies 

The American Geophysical Union promotes discovery in Earth and space science for the benefit of humanity. Its publications disseminate scientific knowledge and provide resources for researchers, students, and professionals.

Chapter 1.  Introduction

1.1 The Significance of Nitrogen on Earth

1.2 Cycling of Nitrogen in the Environment

1.3 Environmental Consequences of Excess Reactive Nitrogen

1.4 Adverse Human Health Impacts

1.5 Legacy Reactive Nitrogen Storage in the Subsurface

1.6 Economic Impacts of Excess Reactive Nitrogen

1.7 Purpose and Scope

1.8 Selected References

Chapter 2. The Nitrogen Cycle

2.1 Pre-Industrial Nitrogen Cycle

              2.1.1 Mineralization/ammonification

              2.1.2 Nitrogen Fixation

              2.1.3 Nitrification

              2.1.4 Denitrification

              2.1.5 Dissimilatory Nitrate Reduction to Ammonia

              2.1.6 Plant Uptake, Assimilation, and Nitrogen Immobilization

              2.1.7 Decay of Plants and Animals

              2.1.8 Volatilization

              2.1.9 Annamox Reactions

              2.1.10 Leaching to Groundwater

2.2 Human Alteration of the Nitrogen Cycle

              2.2.1 Projected Changes to the Nitrogen Cycle During the 21st Century

                    Denitrification in Terrestrial Systems

                    Denitrification in Marine Systems

                    Changes in Land Use and Management Practices

2.3  Selected References

Chapter 3.  Sources of Reactive Nitrogen and Transport Processes

3.1 Natural Sources

3.2 Anthropogenic Sources

              3.2.1 Point Sources

                    Wastewater Treatment Facilities





                    Agricultural Livestock Wastes

3.2.2  Nonpoint Sources

                    Onsite Sewage Treatment Systems

                     Leaky Sewer Systems

                     Urban Fertilizer Use

                    Home Construction

                     Urban Stormwater Runoff

                     Fertilizers and Reactive Nitrogen Compounds

              3.2.3 Atmospheric Inputs and Deposition of Reactive Nitrogen

3.3. Reactive Nitrogen Transport Processes

3.4 Large National and Multi-National Programs and Nitrogen Source Contributions

3.5 Selected References

Chapter 4.  Methods to Identify Sources of Reactive Nitrogen Contamination

4.1 Nitrogen Isotopes for Source Identification

4.2 Dual Isotopes of Nitrate (Nitrogen and Oxygen) for Source Identification

              4.2.1 Ranges of d15N and d18O Values of Nitrate for Various Sources

4.2.2 Limitations of the Dual Nitrate Isotope Method for Determining Nitrate Sources of Contamination

4.3  Other Chemical Indicators andTracers of Nitrate Contamination Sources

              4.3.1  Boron, Boron Isotopes, and other Stable Isotopes

              4.3.2  Ion Ratios and Selected Ion Indicators for Nitrate-Source Identification

4.3.3 Nitrate Isotopes In Combination With Other Isotopic Indicators to Determine Sources of Nitrate

4.4 Sources and Identification of Anthropogenic Ammonia

              4.4.1  Groundwater

              4.4.2 Atmospheric Deposition

4.5  Organic Wastewater Compounds and Emerging Contaminants as Indicators of Nitrate Contamination Sources

4.6 Stable Isotope Monitoring of Biota in Ecosystems

4.7 Microbial Indicators of Reactive Nitrogen Contamination

4.8 Combining Nitrogen Source Identification with Groundwater Age and Residence Time Information

4.9 Using Nitrate Isotopes and other Indicators to Assess Legacy Reactive Nitrogen in Subsurface Storage

4.10 Selected References

Chapter 5.  Adverse Human Health Effects

5.1  Health Effects Associated with Reactive Nitrogen in Air Pollution

              5.1.1 Ammonia, NOx, and Particulate Air Pollution

              5.1.2 NOx as a Driver of Ozone Production

              5.1.3 N2O Effects on Ozone Depletion and Climate

              5.1.4 Air-Quality-Related Health Damages Associated with Maize Production

5.2  Health Effects Associated with Nitrate in Drinking Water

              5.2.1 Methemoglobinemia and other Potential Health Issues

                    Reported Cases of Methemoglobinemia

                     Risk Factors and Other Causes Affecting Methemoglobinemia

              5.2.2  Other Adverse Health Effects

5.2.3 Nitrate Levels and Violations of Standards in Public Water Systems

              5.2.4 Nitrate Levels in Groundwater and Private Wells

5.3 Health Effects of Nitrate and Nitric Oxide in Foods

5.4 Ecosystem Damage and Potential Impacts on Human Health

5.4.1 Exploring Links between Ecosystem Degradation and Human Diseases

5.4.2 Harmful Effects of Algae on Humans

5.5 Reactive Nitrogen Storage in Aquifers and Future Impacts on Drinking Water

5.6 Concluding Remarks

5.7 Selected References

Chapter 6.  Terrestrial Biodiversity and Surface Water Impacts from Reactive Nitrogen

6.1 Worldwide Terrestrial Biodiversity Impacts from Reactive Nitrogen Deposition

6.2 Soil Acidification and Related Impacts on Terrestrial Ecosystems

6.3 Riverine Export of Reactive Nitrogen

6.4 Nutrient-Related Impairment of Surface Waters in the U.S.

6.5 Impacts to Other Surface Water Ecosystems

              6.5.1 Wetlands

              6.5.2 Lakes and Reservoirs

              6.5.3 Coastal Ecosystems, Estuaries, and Oceans

6.6 Harmful Algal Blooms

6.7 Modeling of Reactive Nitrogen Transport in Surface Water Systems

              6.7.1 Regional Scale Models of Nitrogen Transport in Watersheds and Large Rivers

              6.7.2 Modeling Nitrogen Attenuation in Large River Systems

              6.7.3 Global Scale Models of Reactive Nitrogen Transport and Fate

              6.7.4 Modeling Reactive Nitrogen in Surface Waters in China

6.7.5 Including Groundwater Transport and Lag Times in Surface Water Models for Developing More Effective Management Strategies

6.7.6 Modeling Nitrogen, other Nutrients and Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs)

6.8 Further Research Needs and Concluding Remarks

6.9 Selected References

Chapter 7. Groundwater Contamination from Reactive Nitrogen

    1. Reactive Nitrogen Contamination in Groundwater in the United States of America
    2. Reactive Nitrogen Contamination in Groundwater in Europe
    3. Reactive Nitrogen Contamination in Groundwater in China
    4. Interchange of Reactive Nitrogen between Groundwater and Surface Water

7.4.1 Groundwater Recharge of Nitrogen to Streams Hyporheic Zone Interactions Riparian Zones along Streams

7.4.2 Groundwater Seepage and Discharge to Lakes and Wetlands

7.4.3 Submarine Groundwater Discharge

7.5. Legacy Reactive Nitrogen Storage in Vadose Zone and Aquifers

7.6. Nitrogen Contamination in Drinking Water

7.6.1 Public Supply and Domestic Wells

7.6.2. Factors affecting Vulnerability of Nitrate Contamination in Public Supply Wells

7.7. Modeling Nitrogen Transport and Vulnerability of Groundwater to Contamination

7.7.1 Statistical Modeling of Vulnerability

7.7.2 Numerical Modeling of Nitrogen Fate and Transport

7.7.3 Mass-Balance Models for Nitrogen Fate and Transport

7.7.4 Future Needs for Modeling Reactive Nitrogen in Groundwater Systems

7.8 Selected References

Chapter 8. Nitrate Contamination in Springs

8.1 Florida’s Nitrate Impaired Springs

              8.1.1 Hydrogeology of Florida Springs

              8.1.2 Spring Water Nitrate Contamination

              8.1.3 Residence Time of Groundwater in Springsheds and Timescales of Nitrate Contamination

              8.1.4 Denitrification in the Upper Floridan Aquifer

              8.1.5 Water Quality Restoration Efforts for Florida Springs

8.2 Nitrate in Springs in the Edwards Aquifer, Texas

              8.2.1 Background Information on the Edwards Aquifer Hydrogeology and Ecosystems

              8.2.2 Selected Studies of Nitrate Contamination in Edwards Aquifer Springs

              8.2.3 Protecting Water Quality in the Edwards Aquifer

8.3  Nitrate Contamination of Springs in Northeast Spain

8.4  Nitrate in Springs Used for Drinking Water

8.5  Springs and Water Quantity Issues

8.6  Selected References

Chapter 9. Co-occurrence of Nitrate with Other Contaminants in the Environment

9.1 Nitrogen and Phosphorus

9.1.1 Fertilizers

9.1.2 Manure

9.1.3 Wastewater

9.1.4 Septic Systems

9.2 Nitrate and Pathogens

9.3 Trace Element Contamination Associated with Nitrate

9.4 Nitrate and Pesticides

9.5 Nitrate and Organic Contaminants in Groundwater Used for Drinking Water

9.6 Nitrate and Emerging Organic Contaminants

9.7 Air Pollution: Nitrogen and Other Constituents

9.8 Selected References

Chapter 10. Economic Costs and Consequences of Excess Reactive Nitrogen

10.1 Economic Costs and Consequences of Reactive Nitrogen in Europe

              10.1.1 Cost Benefit Analyses for Nitrogen Abatement

              10.1.2 Human Health Costs Related to Nitrate in Drinking Water

10.2 Economic costs and consequences of Reactive Nitrogen in the United States

              10.2.1 Costs Associated with Ecosystem Damages

              10.2.2 Costs Associated with the Agricultural Production of Maize in the U.S

              10.2.3 Other Economic Losses Associated with Nitrogen Pollution

              10.2.4 Harmful Algal Blooms

              10.2.5 Drinking Water Treatment

10.2.6 Great Lakes

              10.2.7 Florida’s Harmful Algal Blooms and Coastal Red Tide

10.3 Economic Costs and Consequences of Reactive Nitrogen in China

              10.3.1 Air Pollution, Atmospheric Deposition of Nitrogen, and Public Health

              10.3.2 Changes in Food Production in China

10.4 Approaches to Reducing Economic Costs Associated with Managing Reactive Nitrogen

              10.4.1 Climate Change Ramifications and Economic Costs

              10.4.2 Using Multiple Metrics to Assess Economic Costs and Management Actions

              10.4.3 Reducing Economic Costs Associated with Health Effects from Air Pollution

              10.4.4 Reducing Reactive Nitrogen from Various Institutions

              10.4.5 Dietary Modifications

              10.4.6 Agricultural Nitrogen Management

              10.4.7 Food Production with Less Pollution

10.5 Concluding Remarks

10.6 Selected References

Chapter 11. Strategies for Reducing Excess Reactive Nitrogen to the Environment

11.1 Major Challenges

11.2 Increasing Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) in Agriculture

              11.2.1 Enhanced Efficiency Fertilizers

              11.2.2 Reducing Agricultural Emissions to the Atmosphere and Manure Management

11.3  Nitrogen Use Efficiency for the Food Production/Consumption Chain

11.4  Reducing Reactive Nitrogen Emissions from Fossil Fuel Combustion

11.5  Reducing and Managing Reactive Nitrogen in Wastewaters

11.6 Estimating and Reducing Nitrogen Footprints

              11.6.1 China’s Nitrogen Footprint and Global Impact

              11.6.2 Increasing Global Awareness of Impacts from Reactive Nitrogen

11.6.3  Personal Choices for Improving Nitrogen Use Efficiency and Reducing Our Nitrogen Footprint

11.7 Closing Remarks

11.8 Selected References