Imbalance In Nitrogen Availability : Report
According to a new report, an imbalance in nitrogen availability has been reported across the globe, with some places having an excess and others a shortage of the element.
Reasons Causing the Decline
- Rising carbon dioxide levels and other global changes have increased demand for nitrogen by plants and microbes.
- Plants grow quickly when exposed to high carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations.
- The presence of high CO2 levels dilutes the availability of nitrogen in Plants, thus, their demand for nitrogen goes up.
- Other factors contributing to nitrogen decline include warming and disturbances, including wildfire.
- Many areas of the world, where people do not contribute excessive amounts of nitrogen to the soil, long-term records demonstrate that nitrogen availability is declining, with important consequences for plant and animal growth.
- Burning fossil fuels, application of nitrogen-based fertilizers, and other activities can dramatically increase the amount of biologically available nitrogen in an ecosystem.
Consequences of Nitrogen Imbalance:
- Declining nitrogen availability can be linked to insect apocalypse.
- Climate change, insecticides, herbicides, light pollution, invasive species and changes in agriculture and land use are causing Earth to lose about 1-2% of its insects each year.
- This is being termed as “Insect Apocalypse”.
- It can encourage swarming in some species of locusts.
- Further, low nitrogen availability could limit plants’ ability to capture CO2 from the atmosphere.
- When excessive nitrogen accumulates in the streams, inland lakes and coastal bodies of water, it could sometimes result in eutrophication, leading to harmful algal blooms, dead zones and fish kills.
- Eutrophication: When a water body becomes overly enriched with minerals and nutrients which induce excessive growth of algae or algal bloom.
- This process also results in oxygen depletion of the water body.
- In humans, high levels of nitrogen in the groundwater are linked to intestinal cancers and miscarriages and can be fatal for infants.