Nitrogen in a changing earth system

Humans are altering the natural nitrogen cycle which is affecting our planet and health, and contributing to climate change.

The challenge

Nitrogen is essential for plants, animals and humans, and one of the main limiting nutrients in the mass production of food. Human alteration to the natural fluxes of reactive nitrogen through the Earth System has major implications for ecosystems, air and water quality, and human health. In addition, the nitrogen cycle has direct links to climate change, for example through fluxes of nitrous oxide (N2O), a potent greenhouse gas with 300 times the global warming potential of CO2 and destroys ozone. 

What we're doing

This project aims to bring together a range of researchers across the University of Bristol and externally to address the challenge of human alteration to the global nitrogen cycle. In the first focussed workshop, we will address the emerging issue of nitrous oxide emissions and climate. The outcomes of this workshop will feed into a second more holistic and cross-disciplinary workshop which will explore the human influence on the nitrogen cycle across aquatic, terrestrial and atmospheric components of the Earth System.

How it helps

Understanding how nitrogen flows through the environment and, crucially, how its cycling is being modified by human activity is essential in mitigating the on-going effects of nitrogen pollution and climate change. Our planned workshops will allow us to produce a new policy-relevant cross-cutting research agenda around the nitrogen cycle and global change.

Lead researcher profile

Dr Oliver Andrews, Lecturer in Biogeochemistry

Partner organisations

  • University of Glasgow
  • Soil Association
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