Nitrogen Pollution: From the Sources to the Sea


A second Science Links project focused on nitrogen pollution. A team of 12 scientists headed by HBRF Trustee Dr. Charles Driscoll and HBRF postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr. David Whitall, assessed the issue in a peer-reviewed article in the journal BioScience, published in April, 2003, and produced the companion report, Nitrogen Pollution: From the Sources to the Sea.

Many people don’t realize that human activity has significantly altered the global nitrogen cycle. Through fossil fuel combustion, fertilizer production and use, and wastewater discharge, human activities release nitrogen into the air and water at greater levels than ever before. Though essential to plant growth, nitrogen can damage the environment at excessive levels. As excessive nitrogen moves through the landscape, it affects the ecological health of forests, soils, streams and, ultimately, coastal environments. This phenomenon of “cascading effects” is familiar to ecologists, but warrants better public understanding. The public policy implications of nitrogen pollution are substantial, relating to the U.S. Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act andFarm Bill.


Earth Systems Research Center

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Hubbard Brook Research Foundation

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