Science Inventory

Reactive nitrogen impacts on ecosystem services

Citation:

COMPTON, J. E., R. L. DENNIS, H. A. WALKER, W. B. MILSTEAD, AND STEVE J. JORDAN. Reactive nitrogen impacts on ecosystem services. Presented at A conference on ecosystem services, Naples, FL, December 08 - 12, 2008.

Impact/Purpose:

The Ecosystem Services Research Program (ESRP) is a new, multi-year research initiative under development by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Description:

The Ecosystem Services Research Program (ESRP) is a new, multi-year research initiative under development by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As one of its components, ESRP has chosen to focus on reactive Nitrogen (Nr) for stressor-specific ecosystem research through a new research theme (ESRP-Nitrogen). Reactive nitrogen is a very important limiting nutrient, required for the growth and maintenance of all of earth’s biological systems. For humans, there are services provided by natural and anthropogenic sources of Nr, including the production of plant and animal products (food and fiber) for human use. Yet, over the past century, human intervention in the nitrogen cycle has led to substantial increases in human and ecosystem exposure to Nr. Nitrogen is one of the leading stressors on small stream condition in the US, and increasing Nr has led to eutrophication-related harmful algal blooms, loss of dissolved oxygen, fish kills, loss of productivity, and loss of desirable habitat in sensitive coastal ecosystems. The amount of Nr applied to the nation’s landscape and released to the nation’s air and water has reached unprecedented levels, and projections show that Nr pollution will continue to increase for the foreseeable future. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment underscored that handling the tradeoffs inherent in controlling this class of environmental pollutant is one of the major challenges the EPA will face in the 21st century. Collectively, the research and regulatory community knows a great deal about the beneficial and adverse effects of Nr. One key gap in our collective ability to assess the impact of reactive nitrogen is being able to see the entire picture and adequately illustrate the tradeoffs. Some of the impacts of increasing nitrogen can benefit ecosystem services, such as food, wood and fiber production (cropland and industrial forestry), yet many native ecosystems (e.g., biodiversity of alpine grasslands and high altitude lakes) are negatively impacted by reactive nitrogen at much lower input levels. An important goal of ESRP-Nitrogen is to develop a framework to represent positive and negative impacts of nitrogen on important ecosystem services, across an N loading gradient. Developing a defensible ecosystem services accounting framework would allow managers and regulators to see the range of effects of Nr. ESRP-Nitrogen is currently developing approaches to bundle and measure multiple ecosystem services influenced by Nr, and initiating a research program comprised of national, regional and place-based studies to address these issues.

Record Details:

Record Type: DOCUMENT (PRESENTATION/ABSTRACT)
Product Published Date: 12/08/2008
Record Last Revised: 07/09/2009
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 199661

Organization:

U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

NATIONAL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS RESEARCH LABORATORY

WESTERN ECOLOGY DIVISION

ECOLOGICAL EFFECTS BRANCH