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The nitrogen cascade from agricultural soils to the sea: modelling nitrogen transfers at regional watershed and global scales

Abstract : The nitrogen cycle of pre-industrial ecosystems has long been remarkably closed, in spite of the high mobility of this element in the atmosphere and hydrosphere. Inter-regional and international commercial exchanges of agricultural goods, which considerably increased after the generalization of the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, introduced an additional type of nitrogen mobility, which nowadays rivals the atmospheric and hydrological fluxes in intensity, and causes their enhancement at the local, regional and global scales. Eighty-five per cent of the net anthropogenic input of reactive nitrogen occurs on only 43 per cent of the land area. Modern agriculture based on the use of synthetic fertilizers and the decoupling of crop and animal production is responsible for the largest part of anthropogenic losses of reactive nitrogen to the environment. In terms of levers for better managing the nitrogen cascade, beyond technical improvement of agricultural practices tending to increase nitrogen use efficiency, or environmental engineering management measures to increase nitrogen sinks in the landscape, the need to better localize crop production and livestock breeding, on the one hand, and agriculture and food demand on the other hand, is put forward as a condition to being able to supply food to human populations while preserving environmental resources.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, September 8, 2015 - 11:55:36 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, October 14, 2020 - 3:43:53 AM

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Gilles Billen, Josette Garnier, Luis Lassaletta. The nitrogen cascade from agricultural soils to the sea: modelling nitrogen transfers at regional watershed and global scales. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Royal Society, The, 2013, 368 (1621), pp.1-13. ⟨10.1098/rstb.2013.0123⟩. ⟨hal-01195674⟩

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