Are you aware that the atmosphere is made up of 78% nitrogen? Or, that healthy nitrogen cycles are extremely important for the biodiversity of the planet? With changing levels of nitrogen in our air, mainly from human activity, nitrogen cycles have been altered more than any other basic element. Let’s take a look at why this is critical to the environment.
Life on our planet could not exist without nitrogen. It is an essential element that supports all life. It is a necessary component of many biomolecules, including proteins, DNA, and chlorophyll. A nitrogen cycle is defined as a continuous series of natural processes by which nitrogen passes successively from air to soil to organisms and back to air or soil involving principally nitrogen fixation, nitrification, decay, and denitrification. Burning fossil fuels, applying nitrogen-based fertilizers, and other activities substantially increase the amount of nitrogen in an ecosystem.
Nitrogen Cycle Facts:
- The largest contributor to increased nitrogen levels is fertilizer.
- Burning of biomass, the use of wood for fuel and the clearing of forests and grasslands for agriculture, is the second largest contributor to increased nitrogen levels.
- Nitrate-concentrated groundwater also results in eutrophication, or a high algae population, which results in the premature death of aquatic life-forms.
- The increase in nitrous oxide in the atmosphere due to forced agricultural fertilization and biomass burning has resulted in the destruction of atmospheric ozone, acid rain, smog, and drastic alteration of the atmospheric chemistry.
- Currently Asia, Europe, and North America account for almost 90% of human-generated reactive nitrogen.
How can I make an impact:
Tier 1: Global Goodness
- Stop the use of nitrogen rich fertilizers.
- Purchase organic produce. Many organic and local farmers make sure they maintain a healthy balanced soil. High yield and large scale farming focus on production and use higher amounts of fertilizer to achieve production levels.
Tier 2: Planet Protector
- All of Action 1
- Lobby your local government to reduce the amount of fertilizer used in local parks and communities.
- Refrain from burning biomass. Compost, chipping or taking green waste to facilities are better ways in which to dispose of your biomass.
Tier 3: Earth Angel
- All of Action 1 & 2
- Tell Congress we need a solution. Volatile nitrogen cycles disrupt the environment and we need solutions in reducing our human output.