The Evolution and Future of Earth's Nitrogen Cycle

Donald Eugene Canfield, Alexander N. Glazer, Paul G. Falkowski

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Atmospheric reactions and slow geological processes controlled Earth’s earliest nitrogen cycle, and by ~2.7 billion years ago, a linked suite of microbial processes evolved to form the modern nitrogen cycle with robust natural feedbacks and controls. Over the past century, however, the development of new agricultural practices to satisfy a growing global demand for food has drastically disrupted the nitrogen cycle. This has led to extensive eutrophication of fresh waters and coastal zones as well as increased inventories of the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O). Microbial processes will ultimately restore balance to the nitrogen cycle, but the damage done by humans to the nitrogen economy of the planet will persist for decades, possibly centuries, if active intervention and careful management strategies are not initiated.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScience
Volume330
Issue number6001
Pages (from-to)192-196
ISSN0036-8075
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8. Oct 2010

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nitrogen cycle
early Earth
agricultural practice
nitrous oxide
coastal zone
eutrophication
greenhouse gas
planet
damage
food
nitrogen
water

Cite this

Canfield, Donald Eugene ; Glazer, Alexander N. ; Falkowski, Paul G. / The Evolution and Future of Earth's Nitrogen Cycle. In: Science. 2010 ; Vol. 330, No. 6001. pp. 192-196.
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Canfield, DE, Glazer, AN & Falkowski, PG 2010, 'The Evolution and Future of Earth's Nitrogen Cycle', Science, vol. 330, no. 6001, pp. 192-196. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1186120

The Evolution and Future of Earth's Nitrogen Cycle. / Canfield, Donald Eugene; Glazer, Alexander N.; Falkowski, Paul G.

In: Science, Vol. 330, No. 6001, 08.10.2010, p. 192-196.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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N2 - Atmospheric reactions and slow geological processes controlled Earth’s earliest nitrogen cycle, and by ~2.7 billion years ago, a linked suite of microbial processes evolved to form the modern nitrogen cycle with robust natural feedbacks and controls. Over the past century, however, the development of new agricultural practices to satisfy a growing global demand for food has drastically disrupted the nitrogen cycle. This has led to extensive eutrophication of fresh waters and coastal zones as well as increased inventories of the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O). Microbial processes will ultimately restore balance to the nitrogen cycle, but the damage done by humans to the nitrogen economy of the planet will persist for decades, possibly centuries, if active intervention and careful management strategies are not initiated.

AB - Atmospheric reactions and slow geological processes controlled Earth’s earliest nitrogen cycle, and by ~2.7 billion years ago, a linked suite of microbial processes evolved to form the modern nitrogen cycle with robust natural feedbacks and controls. Over the past century, however, the development of new agricultural practices to satisfy a growing global demand for food has drastically disrupted the nitrogen cycle. This has led to extensive eutrophication of fresh waters and coastal zones as well as increased inventories of the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O). Microbial processes will ultimately restore balance to the nitrogen cycle, but the damage done by humans to the nitrogen economy of the planet will persist for decades, possibly centuries, if active intervention and careful management strategies are not initiated.

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