Nitrogen footprints: Regional realities and options to reduce nitrogen loss to the environment
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- Shibata, H., Galloway, J.N., Leach, A.M. et al. Ambio (2017) 46: 129. doi:10.1007/s13280-016-0815-4
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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).