Qualitative and Quantitative Aspects of the Modern Nitrogen Cycle

  • Aaron L. MillsEmail author
Part of the Advances in Environmental Microbiology book series (AEM, volume 6)


The biogeochemical cycling of nitrogen was recognized and largely defined in the nineteenth century. Although great detail about both the processes and the organisms that carry them out have been reported during the 100+ years since the definition of the cycle was completed, only two new processes were added to the cycle, anaerobic ammonia oxidation and industrial fixation of N2 by the Haber-Bosch process. The latter process has injected large amounts of reactive nitrogen into the global environment such that many locations have excess nitrogen present that accelerates eutrophication, emission of greenhouse gasses, destruction of ozone, and some direct health effects. Nevertheless, nitrogen is still the primary limitation on food production, and as the world population continues to increase, the demand for nitrogen fertilizer will continue to drive fixation of N2 into reactive nitrogen faster than denitrification and anammox can return it to the atmosphere as the nonreactive N2.


Nitrogen cycle Microbes 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Aaron L. Mills declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Microbial EcologyUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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