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Imbalance In Nitrogen Availability : Report

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:

Low Nitrogen:

  • 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.

High Nitrogen:

  • 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.