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PLoS Biol. 2011 Aug;9(8):e1001124. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001124. Epub 2011 Aug 16.

Fertilizing nature: a tragedy of excess in the commons.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


Globally, we are applying excessive nitrogen (N) fertilizers to our agricultural crops, which ultimately causes nitrogen pollution to our ecosphere. The atmosphere is polluted by N₂O and NO(x) gases that directly and indirectly increase atmospheric warming and climate change. Nitrogen is also leached from agricultural lands as the water-soluble form NO₃⁻, which increases nutrient overload in rivers, lakes, and oceans, causing "dead zones", reducing property values and the diversity of aquatic life, and damaging our drinking water and aquatic-associated industries such as fishing and tourism. Why do some countries show reductions in fertilizer use while others show increasing use? What N fertilizer application reductions could occur, without compromising crop yields? And what are the economic and environmental benefits of using directed nutrient management strategies?

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