The anthropogenic nitrogen cycle in the Netherlands

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Abstract

Results of a study on the nitrogen flows in the Netherlands are presented for three different years. The details given for 1995 are preliminary. The data are derived from a material balance sheet investigation. The objective of the study is to present a complete, integrated and accurate overview of nitrogen losses from the anthropogenic nitrogen cycle in the country with respect to present and possible future nitrous oxide emissions. Losses are analyzed in terms of economic sources and the recipient environmental compartments. The nitrogen losses account for about 25% of the total nitrogen input in the anthropogenic nitrogen cycle. Most of the losses occur in agriculture (67%), whereas industry, traffic and households each contribute about 10% to the total nitrogen loss. About 15% of the total nitrogen input in the national economy ends up in the environment, where it gives rise to adverse effects as the eutrophication of fresh surface water and the contamination of ground water with nitrate. A comparison of the results for different years shows that little progress has been made in emission reductions so far. Ammonia emissions have been reduced, but at the expense of an increase of the nitrogen input to agricultural soils.

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