La contaminación por nitrógeno de origen agropecuario, vehicular, industrial y de residuos, cuesta 320 billones de euros (320,000 millones de euros) al año, según el informe realizado por 200 expertos europeos.
El nitrógeno reactivo contribuye a la contaminación atmosférica, al cambio climático y los combustibles se calcula que acortar la vida del residente europeo promedio en seis meses.
La ganadería es una de las mayores causas de la contaminación por nitrógeno, según el estudio. Se pide cambios en la agricultura y más controles en los vehículos y la industria.
El problema disminuiría bastante si se consumiera menos carne.
El nitrógeno molecular es el elemento más común en la atmósfera y es inofensivo. Es la forma reactiva – producida principalmente por la actividad humana – causa una serie de problemas relacionados.
El informe de 600 páginas se basa en el estudio de 200 expertos de 21 países y 89 organizaciones.
La contaminación por nitrógeno de los autos, las fábricas y la agricultura intensiva daña el 60% de los espacios naturales de Europa, según alertaron los científicos.
Pese a que el nitrógeno es inocuo y está en la atmósfera de forma natural, los compuestos reactivos que lo utilizan como base son muy dañinos, según un estudio de la Universidad de York, en Reino Unido.
Los investigadores indicaron que esas sustancias provocan una excesiva acidez en el terreno, lo que daña a las plantas, y por extensión a los animales que dependen de ellas.
Viernes, 15 de abril de 2011
También descubrieron que promueven la aparición de malas hierbas como zarzas y ortigas.
Además, según un informe internacional publicado esta semana, la contaminación por nitrógeno, muy utilizado en fertilizantes, cuesta a Europa decenas de miles de millones de dólares cada año.
This illustration is nitrogen deposition (teragrams per square meter) projected by NCAR’s atmospheric chemistry model, coupled to the Community Atmosphere Model, for the year 2100, based on the IPCC’s A2 emissions scenario. Areas in orange and red show the largest increases in deposition. These largely coincide with those land areas shown at left where plant growth is most strongly limited by nitrogen, such as eastern North America, Europe, and southern Asia. http://www.ucar.edu/communications/quarterly/spring05/images/thornton2_RIGHT.jpg
What do lightning and fertilized crops have in common? Both play a role in the global nitrogen cycle. See the sidebar for details. (Photos by Carlye Calvin.)
Air pollution ‘damaging Europe’s wildlife havens’
Environment analyst, BBC News
Air pollution is damaging 60% of Europe’s prime wildlife sites in meadows, forests and heaths, according to a new report.
A team of EU scientists said nitrogen emissions from cars, factories and farming was threatening biodiversity.
It’s the second report this week warning of the on-going risks and threats linked to nitrogen pollution.
The Nitrogen Deposition and Natura 2000 report was published at a key scientific conference in Edinburgh.
Earlier this week, the European Nitrogen Assessment – the first of its kind – estimated nitrogen damage to health and the environment at between £55bn and £280bn a year in Europe, even though nitrogen pollution from vehicles and industry had dropped 30% over recent decades.
Nitrogen in the atmosphere is harmless in its inert state, but the report says reactive forms of nitrogen, largely produced by human activity, can be a menace to the natural world.
Emissions mostly come from vehicle exhausts, factories, artificial fertilisers and manure from intensive farming.
The reactive nitrogen they emit to the air disrupts the environment in two ways:
It can make acidic soils too acidic to support their previous mix of species.
But primarily, because nitrogen is a fertiliser, it favours wild plants that can maximise the use of nitrogen to help them grow.
In effect, some of the nitrogen spread to fertilise crops is carried in the atmosphere to fertilise weeds, possibly a great distance from where the chemicals were first applied.
The effects of fertilisation and acidification favour common aggressive species like grasses, brambles and nettles.
They harm more delicate species like lichens, mosses, harebells and insect-eating sundew plants.
The report said 60% of wildlife sites were now receiving a critical load of reactive nitrogen.
The report’s lead author, Dr Kevin Hicks from the University of York’s Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), told BBC News that England’s Peak District had a demonstrably low range of species as a result of the reactive nitrogen that fell on the area.
“Nitrogen creates a rather big problem that seems to me to have been given too little attention,” he said.
“Governments are obliged by the EU Habitats Directive to protect areas like this, but they are clearly failing.”
He said more research was needed to understand the knock-on effects for creatures from the changes in vegetation inadvertently caused by emissions from cars, industry and farms.
At the conference, the delegates agreed “The Edinburgh Declaration on Reactive Nitrogen”.
The document highlights the importance of reducing reactive nitrogen emissions to the environment, adding that the benefits of reducing nitrogen outweigh the costs of taking action.
IES scientist A. Leip (see photo) is an expert regarding the modeling of European nitrogen cycles. He, together with other IES colleagues U. Doering, G. Seufert and also former IES staff J. van Aardenne, S. Monni, L. Orlandini contributed to various estimates of emissions of reactive nitrogen to the atmosphere and deposition on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. In fact, Leip et al. lead a central chapter of the European Nitrogen Assessment (chapter 16 – Integrating nitrogen fluxes at the European scale) and contribute to several others. Former IES scientist B. Grizzetti, together with IES’ F. Bouraoui, lead chapter 17 (Nitrogen as a threat to European water quality). Results will be presented at the 5th International Nitrogen Conference, which will take place from the 3rd to the 7th December 2010 in New Delhi.
Global deposition of reactive nitrogen deposition [mg N/m2/year] in the year 2000
Nitrogen pollution ‘costs EU up to £280bn a year’
Nitrogen pollution from farms, vehicles, industry and waste treatment is costing the EU up to £280bn (320bn euros) a year, a report says.
The study by 200 European experts says reactive nitrogen contributes to air pollution, fuels climate change and is estimated to shorten the life of the average resident by six months.
Livestock farming is one of the biggest causes of nitrogen pollution, it adds.
It calls for changes in farming and more controls on vehicles and industry.
The problem would be greatly helped if less meat was consumed, the report says.
Nitrogen is the most common element in the atmosphere and is harmless.
It is the reactive form – mainly produced by human activity – that causes a web of related problems.
The 600-page report relies on experts from 21 countries and 89 organisations. It estimates the annual cost of damage caused by nitrogen across Europe as being £55-£280bn.
Dr Sutton said nitrogen pollution was a serious issue not just in Europe but also N America, China and India.
Reactive nitrogen emissions from agriculture are the most intractable as they come from many diffuse sources.
The report says Europe needs nitrogen fertilisers for its own food security but blames many farmers for applying fertiliser carelessly to crops, so that excess nitrogen runs off to pollute water supplies.
Run-off from animal manure also fouls watercourses, and the release of nitrous oxides from uncovered dung heaps pollutes the air.
Agriculture produces 70% of the nitrous oxide emissions in Europe.
New rules reducing nitrogen emissions from farms are introduced next year, but there are questions over whether these will be strict enough or properly enforced.
The report says more careful application of fertiliser will benefit farmers by saving money. It will benefit the climate by avoiding the energy used to create the fertiliser.
Lead editor, Mark Sutton from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology near Edinburgh, told BBC News that 80% of the nitrogen in crops feeds livestock, not people.
“It’s much more efficient to obtain protein by eating plants rather than animals,” he said.
“If we want to help the problem we can all do something by eating less meat. Eating meat is the dominant driver of the nitrogen cycle in Europe.”
The report says government efforts to control emissions of reactive nitrogen from combustion sources have been more successful.
In the 1980s nitrogen controls were placed on industrial plant and vehicles, This has led to a cut in emissions of 30%, despite an increase in traffic and economic activity.
But the traffic increase has slowed progress in reducing emissions further, and people in many areas still suffer from nitrogen-related air pollution, including small particulates that get sucked deep into the lungs, and ground-level ozone – a strongly irritant gas formed by the action of sunlight on reactive nitrogen.
The authors note that industries have typically resisted controls on nitrogen, but that the benefits of reducing its emissions far outweigh the costs.
Dr Sutton said: “This report is the first time anyone has brought together the whole suite of environmental and human health issues from nitrogen on a Continental scale.
“There have been and still are many attempts to control nitrogen but we believe the big challenge is to link existing policy areas and make them work together.”