Not only is this glut of nitrogen disrupting ecosystems, polluting waters and harming human health, but its a silent partner, along with carbon dioxide, in changing the Earths climate.
Despite the countless initiatives under way to reduce CO2 levels to slow global warming, scientists warn that those efforts will prove moot unless nitrogen releases also are lowered.
One nitrogen compound is especially worrisome, as it lingers in the atmosphere for a century and is 300 times as potent a heat-trapping gas as carbon dioxide.
"We won't solve global warming without addressing nitrogen," said Elizabeth Holland, a senior scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.
"The changes to the nitrogen cycle are larger in magnitude and more profound than the changes to the carbon cycle," Holland continued. "But the nitrogen cycle is being neglected."
And that's a grave oversight, said Margaret Torn, the head of Climate Change and Carbon Management program at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
"Nitrogen should be on the radar," she said. "Unless we control that problem, we won't solve climate change."
hrm. Interesting. I think this will have to go on the stack of lit searches. Unfortunately, that stack is pretty deep right now.