Nitrogen and climate

Topic leader
Jan Willem Erisman
The extensive use of fertilisers caused an imbalance in the nitrogen cycle by releasing large quantities of reactive nitrogen into the environment. This has had severe impacts on biodiversity, human health, climate and ecosystem services. At the same time, increased agricultural productivity has undoubtedly had beneficial effects on human society, and recent work hints at positive effects on forest growth in some parts of the world. Although the nitrogen cycle has been fairly well characterised, how its modification affects climate has been less studied. This IGBP synthesis aims at assessing the positive and negative effects of the proliferation of reactive nitrogen and the effects of an altered nitrogen cycle on the carbon cycle and climate.

The synthesis produced a report on options for including nitrogen management in climate policy development. A workshop organised in collaboration with the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was held in October/November 2011 to explore the links between nitrogen and climate. A report arising from that workshop can be viewed herePDF (pdf, 802.7 kB). Also part of the broader effort was the Fast-Track Initiative on the Nitrogen Visualisation Tool. The visualisation can be viewed here: http://www.devmonks.nl/e/ecn/cockpit_online/