Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Stanford scientists help shed light on key component of China's pollution problem

26.02.2013
Study reveals scale of nitrogen's effect on people and ecosystems.
It's no secret that China is faced with some of the world's worst pollution. Until now, however, information on the magnitude, scope and impacts of a major contributor to that pollution – human-caused nitrogen emissions – was lacking.

A new study co-authored by Stanford Woods Institute biologist Peter Vitousek reveals that amounts of nitrogen (from industry, cars and fertilizer) deposited on land and water in China by way of rain, dust and other carriers increased by 60 percent annually from the 1980s to the 2000s, with profound consequences for the country's people and ecosystems.

Xuejun Liu and Fusuo Zhang at China Agricultural University in Beijing led the study, which is part of an ongoing collaboration with Stanford aimed at reducing agricultural nutrient pollution while increasing food production in China – a collaboration that includes Vitousek and Pamela Matson, a Stanford Woods Institute senior fellow and dean of the School of Earth Sciences.

The researchers analyzed all available data on bulk nitrogen deposition from monitoring sites throughout China from 1980 to 2010.

During the past 30 years, China has become by far the largest creator and emitter of nitrogen globally. The country's use of nitrogen as a fertilizer increased about threefold from the 1980s to 2000s, while livestock numbers and coal combustion increased about fourfold, and the number of automobiles about twentyfold (all of these activities release reactive nitrogen into the environment).

Increased levels of nitrogen have led to a range of deleterious impacts including decreased air quality, acidification of soil and water, increased greenhouse gas concentrations and reduced biological diversity.

"All these changes can be linked to a common driving factor: strong economic growth, which has led to continuous increases in agricultural and non-agricultural reactive nitrogen emissions and consequently increased nitrogen deposition," the study's authors write.

Researchers found highly significant increases in bulk nitrogen deposition since the 1980s in China's industrialized North, Southeast and Southwest. Nitrogen levels on the North China Plain are much higher than those observed in any region in the United States and are comparable to the maximum values observed in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands when nitrogen deposition was at its peak in the 1980s.

China's rapid industrialization and agricultural expansion have led to continuous increases in nitrogen emissions and nitrogen deposition. China's production and use of nitrogen-based fertilizers is greater than that of the United States and the European Union combined. Because of inefficiencies, more than half of that fertilizer is lost to the environment in gaseous or dissolved forms.

China's nitrogen deposition problem could be brought under control, the study's authors state, if the country's environmental policy focused on improving efficiency in agricultural use of nitrogen and reducing nitrogen emissions from all sources, including industry and transit.

Rob Jordan is the communications writer for the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

Peter Vitousek | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.stanford.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Safeguarding sustainability through forest certification mapping
27.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA looks to solar eclipse to help understand Earth's energy system

21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot

21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Vortex photons from electrons in circular motion

21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>