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Nitrogen Fertilizer

As residential development takes over natural habitats, wastewater runoff is becoming an enormous problem. If current trends of nitrogen loading continue, algae will take over coastal waterways, deeper water will become anoxic and fish will die.

Excessive use of chemical fertilizers and manure on agricultural land is the main source of groundwater contamination (Maeda et al. 2003). However, fertilizer used on home lawns can have a significant impact too. If the town of Falmouth, Massachusetts, is any indication, over 15% of the nitrogen that seeps into the water is from residential fertilizer use (Peterson). Though not the major component of nutrient pollution, residents can easily change their lawn care practices to reduce the amount of nitrogen runoff. Tons of nitrogen rich fertilizer is dumped on front lawns at dosages higher than used in agriculture per unit of ground area.

Although nitrogen makes up nearly 80% of the mass of the Earth's atmosphere, it is in the non-reactive N2 gas form. In the early 20th century, people began to realize that the increasing human population was not being met by an increase in food production. In 1913, the invention of the Haber-Bosch process allowed anthropogenic fixation of nitrogen (Galloway and Cowling 2002). The use of inorganic fertilizers increased dramatically after World War II to increase agricultural output. Currently, the combined affect of nitrogen entering the environment from food production, fossil fuel combustion
and the Haber-Bosch process is twice the amount of nitrogen fixed biologically by microbes (Galloway et al. 2002).

The Haber-Bosch process created an unlimited supply of nitrogen available to grow food in the form of inorganic fertilizers. However, fixing nitrogen for the fertilizer requires energy gained from the burning of fossil fuel, adding to inorganic fertilizer's negative environmental impact (Kramer et al. 2001). Today, about half of the food eaten globally is produced using chemical fertilizers (Galloway and Cowling 2002) and half of the inorganic fertilizers ever used on the Earth were used in the last fifteen years.

Emissions of NO (Nitrogen), a greenhouse gas, not only contribute to global climate change, but also decrease stratospheric ozone. Also, the release of nitrogen oxides increases tropospheric ozone injuring croplands and natural ecosystems and, with increased particulate matter, causes human respiratory and cardiac diseases (Galloway < et al. 2002).

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    The Registry of Nature Habitats
    PO Box 321
    Meridale, NY 13806
    Copyright 1999 - All Rights Reserved

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