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Ambio. 2002 Mar;31(2):79-87.

The Asian nitrogen cycle case study.

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  • 1Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100029, P.R. China.


We analyzed nitrogen budgets at national and regional levels on a timeline from 1961-2030 using a model, IAP-N 1.0. The model was designed based upon the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) methods using Asia-specific parameters and a Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) database. In this paper we discuss new reactive-nitrogen and its various fates, and environmental nitrogen enrichment and its driving forces. The anthropogenic reactive nitrogen of Asia dramatically increased from approximately 14.4 Tg N yr-1 in 1961 to approximately 67.7 Tg N yr-1 in 2000 and is likely to be 105.3 Tg N yr-1 by 2030. Most of the anthropogenic reactive-nitrogen has accumulated in the environment. We found that an increasing demand for food and energy supplies and the lack of effective measures to improve the efficiency of fertilizer nitrogen use, as well as effective measures for the prevention of NOx emissions from fossil-fuel combustion, are the principal drivers behind the environmental nitrogen-enrichment problem. This problem may be finally solved by substituting synthetic nitrogen fertilizers with new high-efficiency nitrogen sources, but solutions are dependent on advances in biological technology.

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