Growing nitrogen footprint threatens our air, water and climate

Scientists are concerned that the growth of commercial-scale agriculture on farms in tropical regions, such as this one in Matto, Brazil, is increasing the global nitrogen footprint. Credit: Alexandra Huddlell

A new study from Columbia University finds that nitrogen emissions from agricultural production in the tropics is likely to increase and, in some cases, overtake temperate climates, exposing more people to polluted air and water.

“From the Amazon to Africa, tropical regions are expected to play a growing role in supplying our world with food,” said Alexandra Huddell, a doctoral student at Columbia University and lead author of a recent study published in Global Change Biology. “But we have to be careful to prevent the damage that nitrogen pollution causes in places like China, Europe and the United States.”
Much of the culpability for global nitrogen pollution,…

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