Nitrogen cycling attracts worldwide attention because of its importance for food production and its effects on the environment. In the form of fertilizer, nitrogen exerts the most important effects in food production. Since the industrialization, however, the amount of anthropogenic reactive N has been comparative with the natural reactive N due to the rapid development of agriculture and industry, the expansion of the global population. As a result, human activities have significantly altered the natural N cycling, causing reactive N compounds (e.g., NOx, N2O, NO3, NH3, NH4+) to enter the atmosphere and water bodies at increasing rates. Increased N2O emissions to the atmosphere not only enhance the greenhouse effect, but also disturb the ozone layer. NO3-, NO2- and NH4+ entering water bodies can negatively affect the quality of drinking water and may cause eutrophication. The dry/wet N depositions containing NH3 and NOx can alter the normal function of forest ecosystems and also intensify the eutrophication of water bodies in these ecosystems.
Continued increases in population and economic growth, particularly in the developing countries, will require commensurate increases in food production and energy demand. Hence, the consumption of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and energy will further increase, which will impose even greater pressure on the environment. The issue is whether the increased use of N and energy can be achieved while protecting environmental quality and natural resources for future generations.
Exploring a balanced and flexible strategy to increase food and energy production while decreasing detrimental effects on the environment is the main theme of the 3rd International Nitrogen Conference. To achieve this strategy, contributions from different academic disciplines such as agronomy, ecology, biogeochemistry, oceanography and atmospheric science are indispensable, as well as other sciences dealing with agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry, fishery and energy production. The 3rd International Nitrogen Conference, therefore, provides an opportunity to facilitate the dialogue amongst different research fields and the policy-makers in an interdisciplinary setting. The First International Nitrogen Conference held in the Netherlands in March of 1998 was initiated by the scientists and policy-makers of the Netherlands. The Second International Nitrogen Conference was held in the United States of America in October of 2001. The Third International Nitrogen Conference, as described above, will be held in Nanjing, China in October 12-16, 2004.
Impacts of Population Growth and Economic Development on the Nitrogen Cycle:
Consequences and Mitigation at Local, Regional and Global Scales
(1) Exchange and integrate scientific knowledge on sources, fates and consequences of nitrogen at different scales, particularly in Asia.
(2) Stimulate discussion between scientists and policy-makers, and explore a balanced strategy to increase food and energy production while protecting environmental quality and natural resources for future generations.
(3) Suggest an action plan to increase food and energy production while decreasing detrimental effects of reactive N on the environment; propose a Nanjing Protocol for Nitrogen Management.
1. Centennial retrospect on the effects of increasing nitrogen at different scales and forecasting the future 30 years.
1) The importance of nitrogen for global food security
2) Innovations in nitrogen management for food and energy production
3) Innovations in methodology for studying nitrogen cycling at different scales, and fertilizer use efficiency in agricultural systems
2. Impacts of anthropogenic altered nitrogen cycling on ecosystems at different scales and human health and forecasting the future 30 years.
1) Terrestrial ecosystem
2) Aquatic ecosystem
4) Impact of urbanization on terrestrial, aquatic, and atmospheric systems
5) Terrestrial-atmospheric-aquatic interactions
3. Mitigation options for the impact of nitrogen on the environment.
1) New fertilizer technologies in agriculture, forestry and fishery
2) Exploitation of biological nitrogen fixation
3) State of knowledge and prospects for genetic engineering to increase nitrogen use efficiency by crop plants
4) Management and reuse of human and domestic animal wastes in agriculture
5) Use of multi-element interactions to mitigate the environmental impacts of nitrogen
6) Exploitation of nitrification and denitrification in waterbodies
7) Advanced techniques and alternative energy sources to reduce nitrogen emissions from industrial production, energy production and transportation
8) Education: training, information and extension
9) National and international policies to control nitrogen cycling