Ambio

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 129–142

Nitrogen footprints: Regional realities and options to reduce nitrogen loss to the environment

  • Hideaki Shibata
  • James N. Galloway
  • Allison M. Leach
  • Lia R. Cattaneo
  • Laura Cattell Noll
  • Jan Willem Erisman
  • Baojing Gu
  • Xia Liang
  • Kentaro Hayashi
  • Lin Ma
  • Tommy Dalgaard
  • Morten Graversgaard
  • Deli Chen
  • Keisuke Nansai
  • Junko Shindo
  • Kazuyo Matsubae
  • Azusa Oita
  • Ming-Chien Su
  • Shin-Ichiro Mishima
  • Albert Bleeker
Perspective

DOI: 10.1007/s13280-016-0815-4

Cite this article as:
Shibata, H., Galloway, J.N., Leach, A.M. et al. Ambio (2017) 46: 129. doi:10.1007/s13280-016-0815-4

Abstract

Nitrogen (N) management presents a sustainability dilemma: N is strongly linked to energy and food production, but excess reactive N causes environmental pollution. The N footprint is an indicator that quantifies reactive N losses to the environment from consumption and production of food and the use of energy. The average per capita N footprint (calculated using the N-Calculator methodology) of ten countries varies from 15 to 47 kg N capita−1 year−1. The major cause of the difference is the protein consumption rates and food production N losses. The food sector dominates all countries’ N footprints. Global connections via trade significantly affect the N footprint in countries that rely on imported foods and feeds. The authors present N footprint reduction strategies (e.g., improve N use efficiency, increase N recycling, reduce food waste, shift dietary choices) and identify knowledge gaps (e.g., the N footprint from nonfood goods and soil N process).

Keywords

Nitrogen cycle Nitrogen effects Nitrogen footprint Nitrogen use efficiency 

Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hideaki Shibata
    • 1
  • James N. Galloway
    • 2
  • Allison M. Leach
    • 3
  • Lia R. Cattaneo
    • 2
  • Laura Cattell Noll
    • 2
  • Jan Willem Erisman
    • 4
    • 16
  • Baojing Gu
    • 5
  • Xia Liang
    • 6
  • Kentaro Hayashi
    • 7
  • Lin Ma
    • 8
  • Tommy Dalgaard
    • 9
  • Morten Graversgaard
    • 9
  • Deli Chen
    • 6
  • Keisuke Nansai
    • 10
  • Junko Shindo
    • 11
  • Kazuyo Matsubae
    • 12
  • Azusa Oita
    • 13
  • Ming-Chien Su
    • 14
  • Shin-Ichiro Mishima
    • 7
  • Albert Bleeker
    • 15
  1. 1.Field Science Center for Northern BiosphereHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan
  2. 2.Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Natural Resources & the EnvironmentThe Sustainability InstituteDurhamUSA
  4. 4.Louis Bolk InstituteDriebergenThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Department of Land Management, School of Public AffairsZhejiang UniversityHangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  6. 6.Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural SciencesThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  7. 7.Division of Biogeochemical CyclesNational Institute for Agro-Environmental SciencesTsukubaJapan
  8. 8.Key Laboratory of Agricultural Water Resources, Center for Agricultural Resources Research, Institute of Genetic and Developmental BiologyThe Chinese Academy of SciencesShijiazhuangPeople’s Republic of China
  9. 9.Department of AgroecologyAarhus UniversityTjeleDenmark
  10. 10.Center for Material Cycles and Waste Management ResearchNational Institute for Environmental StudiesTsukubaJapan
  11. 11.Division of Life and Environmental Sciences, Graduate Faculty of Interdisciplinary ResearchUniversity of YamanashiKofuJapan
  12. 12.Graduate School of Environmental StudiesTohoku UniversitySendaiJapan
  13. 13.Graduate School of Environment and Information SciencesYokohama National UniversityYokohamaJapan
  14. 14.Department of Natural Resources and Environmental StudiesNational Dong-Hwa UniversityShoufengTaiwan
  15. 15.Department of Environmental AssessmentEnergy Research Centre of the NetherlandsPettenThe Netherlands
  16. 16.VU UniversityAmsterdamThe Netherlands