Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 31
  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: May 2011

16 - Integrating nitrogen fluxes at the European scale

from Part III - Nitrogen flows and fate at multiple spatial scales


Executive summary

Nature of the problem

Environmental problems related to nitrogen concern all economic sectors and impact all media: atmosphere, pedosphere, hydrosphere and anthroposphere.

Therefore, the integration of fluxes allows an overall coverage of problems related to reactive nitrogen (Nr) in the environment, which is not accessible from sectoral approaches or by focusing on specific media.


This chapter presents a set of high resolution maps showing key elements of the N flux budget across Europe, including N2 and Nr fluxes.

Comparative nitrogen budgets are also presented for a range of European countries, highlighting the most efficient strategies for mitigating Nr problems at a national scale. A new European Nitrogen Budget (EU-27) is presented on the basis of state-of-the-art Europe-wide models and databases focusing on different segments of Europe's society.

Key findings

From c. 18 Tg Nr yr−1 input to agriculture in the EU-27, only about 7 Tg Nr yr−1 find their way to the consumer or are further processed by industry.

Some 3.7 Tg Nr yr−1 is released by the burning of fossil fuels in the EU-27, whereby the contribution of the industry and energy sectors is equal to that of the transport sector. More than 8 Tg Nr yr−1 are disposed of to the hydrosphere, while the EU-27 is a net exporter of reactive nitrogen through atmospheric transport of c. 2.3 Tg Nr yr−1.

The largest single sink for Nr appears to be denitrification to N2 in European coastal shelf regions (potentially as large as the input of mineral fertilizer, about 11 Tg N yr–1 for the EU-27); however, this sink is also the most uncertain, because of the uncertainty of Nr import from the open ocean.

Aber, J. D. (1992). Nitrogen cycling and nitrogen saturation in temperate forest ecosystems. Trends Ecol., Evol., 7, 220–224.
,ACEA (2009). Historical series 1990 – 2008, average car age in Europe, publications 2009, European Automobile Manufacturers Association. Available at
Amann, M., Asman, W., Bertok, al. (2007). Cost-effective emission reductions to meet the Environmental Targets of the Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution under different greenhouse gas constraints NEC, Scenario Analysis Report Nr. 5. IIASA, June 2007.
Andersson-Sköld, Y. and Simpson, D. (1999). Comparison of the chemical schemes of the EMEP MSC-W and the IVL photochemical trajectory models. Atmos. Env., 33, 1111–1129.
,BAFU 2010: Sticksloffflüsse in der Schweiz, Stoffflussanalyse für das Jahr 2005, Heldstab J., Reusimann J., Bledermann R., Len D. Im Auftrag des Bundesamis für ummett BAFU, limwett Hissen Nr. 1018. Bern.
Bange, H. W. (2008). Gaseous nitrogen compounds (NO, N2O, N2, NH3) in the ocean. In: Nitrogen in the Marine Environment, 2nd edition. Capone, D. G., Bronk, D. A., Mulholland, M. R. and Carpenter, E. J. (eds.), Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp. 51–94.
Billen, G., Garnier, J., Mouchel, J.-M. and Silvestre, M. (2007). The Seine System: introduction to a multidisciplinary approach of the functioning of a regional river system. Sci. Total Environ., 375, 1–12.
Billen, G., Barles, S., Garnier, J., Rouillard, J. and Benoit, P. (2008). The food-print of Paris: long-term reconstruction of the nitrogen flows imported into the city from its rural hinterland. Region. Environ.Change,–008–0051-y
Billen, G., Silvestre, M., Grizzetti, al. (2011). Nitrogen flows from European watersheds to coastal marine waters. In: The European Nitrogen Assessment, ed. Sutton, M. A., Howard, C. M., Erisman, J. al., Cambridge University Press.
Bouwman, A. F., Kram, T. and Klein Goldewijk, K. (2006). Integrated modelling of global environmental change: an overview of IMAGE 2.4, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (MNP): Bilthoven, The Netherlands.
Britz, W. and Leip, A. (2009). Development of marginal emission factors for N losses from agricultural soils with the DNDC-CAPRI meta-model. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ., 133, 267–279.
Britz, W. and Witzke, H.-P. (eds.) (2008). CAPRI Model Documentation 2008: Version 2 p. Institute for Food and Resource Economics, University of Bonn: Bonn (available at
Butterbach-Bahl, K., Kahl, M., Mykhayliv, al. (2008). A European wide inventory of soil NO emissions using the biogeochemical models DNDC/ Forest DNDC. Atmos. Environ., 43, 1392–1402.
Butterbach-Bahl, K., Gundersen, P., Ambus, al. (2011). Nitrogen processes in terrestrial ecosystems. In: The European Nitrogen Assessment, ed. Sutton, M. A., Howard, C. M., Erisman, J. W., et al., Cambridge University Press.
,BUWAL (1996). Strategie zur Reduktion der Stickstoffemissionen. Bericht der Projektgruppe Stickstoffhaushalt Schweiz, Schriftenreihe Umwelt Nr. 273, Bundesamt für Umwelt, Wald und Landschaft (BUWAL) and Bundesamt für Landwirtschaft (BLW): Bern, Switzerland.
,CDIAC (2008). Fossil-fuel CO2 emissions. Last accessed on 11.08.2009.
Cofala, J., Amann, M., Klimont, Z., Kupiainen, K. and Höglund-Isaksson, L. (2007). Scenarios of global anthropogenic emissions of air pollutants and methane until 2030. Atmos. Environ., 41, 8486–8499.
,CONCAWE (1997). Motor vehicle emission regulations and fuel specification – part 2, detailed information and historic reviews (1970 – 1996), report 6/1997.
,CONCAWE (2001). Motor Vehicle emission regulations and fuel specification – part 2, detailed information and historic reviews (1996 – 2000), report 2/2001.
Corona, P., Giuliarelli, D., Lamonaca, al. (2007). Confronto sperimentale tra superfici a ceduo tagliate a raso osservate mediante immagini satellitari ad alta risoluzione e tagliate riscontrate amministrativamente. Forest, 4, 324–332.
Dalsøren, S. B., Eide, M. S., Endresen, Ø.et al. (2009). Update on emissions and environmental impacts from the international fleet of ships. The contribution from major ship types and ports. Atmos. Chem. Phys., 9, 2171–2194.
Vries, W., Kros, J., Reinds, G. al. (2009). INTEGRATOR: a modelling tool for European-wide assessments of nitrogen and greenhouse gas fluxes in response to changes in land cover, land management and climate – calculation procedures, application methodology and examples of scenario results, Alterra Report, Alterra Wageningen UR: Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Vries, W., Leip, A., Reinds, G. al. (2011). Geographic variation in terrestrial nitrogen budgets across Europe. In: The European Nitrogen Assessment, ed. Sutton, M. A., Howard, C. M., Erisman, J. al., Cambridge University Press.
,DEFRA (2008). Summary of Food and Farming in the UK, HMSO: London.
Domene, L. A. F. and Robert, U. A. (2001). Nitrogen's role in industrial systems. J. Industr. Ecol., 5, 77–103.
,ECN (2008). European Compost Network: Webpages EU Biowaste Treatment and Country presentations. Last accessed on 11.08.2009.
,EEA (1998). Annual topic update 1997. Topic report 02/98, European Environment Agency and European Topic Centre on Coastal and Marine Environment: Copenhagen.
,EEA (2009a). NEC Directive status report 2008, Reporting by the Member States under Directive 2001/81/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2001 on national emission ceilings for certain atmospheric pollutants EEA Technical report series: European Environment Agency: Copenhagen.
,EEA (2009b). Annual European Community greenhouse gas inventory 1990–2007 and inventory report 2009, submission to the UNFCCC Secretariat, European Environment Agency: Copenhagen.
,EEA (2010). Annual European Community greenhouse gas inventory 1990–2008 and inventory report 2010, submission to the UNFCCC secretariat, European Environment Agency: Copenhagen.
,EIA (2007). International energy statistics. U.S. Energy Information Administration: Washington DC, USA. Last accessed on 2007.
,EMEP (2008). EMEP measurement database. The Co-operative Programme for the Monitoring and Evaluation of the Long-Range Transmission of Air Pollutants in Europe. Available at
,EMEP/EEA (2009). EMEP/EEA air pollutant emission inventory guidebook: 2009, EEA Technical Report. Available at
Erisman, J. W., Domburg, P., Haan, B. al. (2005). The Dutch nitrogen cascade in the European perspective, ECN-C – 05–007, Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN): Petten, The Netherlands.
Erisman, J. W., Sutton, M. A., Galloway, J., Klimont, Z. and Winiwarter, W. (2008). How a century of ammonia synthesis changed the world. Nature Geosci., 1, 636–639.
Eyers, C. J., Addleton, D., Atkinson, al. (2004). AERO2k Global Aviation Emissions Inventories for 2002 and 2025, QINETIQ/04/01113, December 2004. Available at
Galloway, J. N. and Cowling, E. B. (2002). Reactive nitrogen and the world: 200 years of change. Ambio, 31, 64–71.
Galloway, J. N., Cowling, E. B. and Kessler, E. (2002). Reactive nitrogen. Ambio 31, 59.
Galloway, J. N., Aber, J. D., Erisman, J. al. (2003). The Nitrogen Cascade. BioScience, 53, 341–356.
Galloway, J. N., Townsend, A. R., Erisman, J. al. (2008). Transformation of the nitrogen cycle: recent trends, questions, and potential solutions. Science, 320, 889–892
Genovese, G., Baruth, B., Royer, A. and Burger, A. (2007). Crop and yield monitoring activities: MARS STAT action of the European Commission. Geoinformatics, 10, 20–22.
Heckelei, T., Mittelhammer, R. C. and Britz, W. (2005). A Bayesian alternative to generalized cross entropy solutions to underdetermined models. In: 89th EAAE Symposium Modelling Agricultural Policies: State of the Art and New Challanges, 3–5 February, Parma, Italy.
Hertel, O., Reis, S., Skjøth, C. al. (2011). Nitrogen turnover processes in the atmosphere. In: The European Nitrogen Assessment, ed. Sutton, M. A., Howard, C. M., Erismon, J. al., Cambridge University Press.
,IEA/OECD (2007). Energy balances of OECD and non-OECD countries on-line data service, 20037
,IFA (2010). Global Fertilizers and Raw Materials Supply and Supply/Demand Balances, 2010–2014. Prud'homme, M., June 2010.
,IPCC (2006). 2006 IPCC guidelines for national greenhouse gas inventories, prepared by the National Greenhouse Gas Inventories Programme, IGES: Tokyo, Japan.
,IPCC (2007). Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Working Group I – The Physical Science Basis. Summary for policymakers. Available at
,IRF (2007). World Road Statistics 2007.
Jeppsson, U., Alex, J., Pons, M. N., Spanjers, H. and Vanrolleghem, P. A. (2002). Status and future trends of ICA in waste water treatment- a European perspective. Water Sci. Technol., 45, 485–494.
Johnes, P. D. (1996). Evaluation and management of the impact of land use change on the nitrogen and phosphorus load delivered to surface waters: the export coefficient modelling approach. J. Hydrol., 183, 323–349.
Johnes, P. J. (2007). Meeting ecological restoration targets in European waters: a challenge for animal agriculture. In: Redesigning Animal Agriculture, ed. Swain, D., Charmley, E., Steel, J. and Coffey, S., CAB International: Wallingford, UK, pp. 185–203.
Johnes, P. J. and Butterfield, D. (2002). Landscape, regional and global estimates of N flux from land to ocean: errors and uncertainties. Biogeochemistry, 57/58, 429–476.
,JRC/PBL (2009). The EDGAR database EDGAR v4.0, available at http:\\\
Katri, K., Seija, K., Pekka, al. (2004). Effect of elevated [CO2] on stem wood properties of mature Norway spruce grown at different soil nutrient availability. Glob. Change Biol., 10, 1526–1538.
Kesik, M., Ambus, P., Baritz, al. (2005). Inventory of N2O and NO emissions from European forest soils. Biogeosciences, 2, 353–357.
Klimont, Z. and Brink, C. (2004). Modelling of emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases from agricultural sources in Europe, IIASA Interim Report IR-04–048, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis: Laxenburg, Austria.
Lambrecht, M., Erdmenger, C., Bölke, al. (2009). Strategie für einen nachhaltigen Güterverkehr (Summary: Strategy for Sustainable Freight Transport in English), UBA Texte 18/2009.
Leip, A., Marchi, G., Koeble, al. (2008). Linking an economic model for European agriculture with a mechanistic model to estimate nitrogen and carbon losses from arable soils in Europe. Biogeosciences, 5, 73–94.
Leip, A., Weiss, F. and Britz, W. (2009a). Agri-environmental nitrogen indicators for EU27. In: Proceedings of the Conference on Integrated Assessment of Agriculture and Sustainable Development: Setting the Agenda for Science and Policy (AgSAP 2009). Egmond aan Zee, The Netherlands, 10–12 March 2009, ed. Ittersum, M. K., Wolf, J. and Laar, H. H., Wageningen University and Research Centre: Wageningen, the Netherlands, pp. 184–185.
Leip, A., Weiss, F., Orlandini, L. and Marchi, G. (2009b). Nitrous oxide emissions from agriculture in Europe as calculated within the Indicator Database for European Agriculture. In: Fifth International Symposium on Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gases (NCGG-5) Science, Reduction Policy and Implementation, Wageningen, the Netherlands, 30 June – 3 July, 2009.
Leip, A., Britz, W., Vries, W. and Weiss, F. (2011). Farm, land, and soil nitrogen budgets for agriculture in Europe. Environ. Pollu. (in press).
Leip, A., Busto, M. and Winiwarter, W. (2010b). Developing stratified N2O emission factors for Europe. Environ. Pollut. (in press).
Li, C. (2000). Modeling trace gas emissions from agricultural ecosystems. Nutr. Cycl. Agroecosyst., 58, 259–276.
Metzger, S. M., Dentener, F. J., Lelieveld, J. and Pandis, S. N. (2002). Gas/aerosol partitioning 1. A computionally efficient model. J. Geophys. Res., 107 (ACH16).
,NitroEurope (2010) (accessed 1 June 2010).
OECD/Eurostat, (2003). OECD/Eurostat gross nitrogen balances handbook. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Paris.
Olivier, J. G. J., Aardenne, J., Dentener, al. (2005). Recent trends in global greenhouse gas emissions: regional trends 1970–2000 and spatial distribution of key sources in 2000. Environ. Sci., 2, 81–99.
Pilegaard, K., Skiba, U., Ambus, al. (2006). Factors controlling regional differences in forest soil emission of nitrogen oxides (NO and N2O). Biogeosciences, 3, 651–661.
Prud' homme, M. (2009). IFA Production and International Trade Committee, personal communication.
Pulles, T., het Bolscher, M., Brandt, R. and Visschedijk, A. (2007). Assessment of global emissions from fuel combustions in the final decades of the 20th century DG Research, Retro Project, No. 034.64145, TNO report, 2007-A-R0132/B. p. 41.
Rahm, al. (2000). Nitrogen fixation in the Baltic proper: an empirical study. J. Mar. Sys., 25, 239–248.
Schneider, al. (2003). The surface water CO2 budget for the Baltic Proper: a new way to determine nitrogen fixation. J. Mar. Syst., 42, 53–64.
Seitzinger, S., Harrison, J. A., Böhlke, J. al. (2006). Denitrification across landscapes and waterscapes: a synthesis. Ecol. Appl., 16, 2064–2090.
Simpson, D., Winiwarter, W., Börjesson, al. (1999). Inventorying emissions from nature in Europe. J. Geophys. Res., D104, 8113–8152.
Simpson, D., Fagerli, H., Jonson, al. (2003). The EMEP unified Eulerian model. model description, EMEP Report 1/2003, The Norwegian Meteorological Institute, Oslo, Norway.
Simpson, D., Butterbach-Bahl, K., Fagerli, al. (2006). Deposition and emissions of reactive nitrogen over European forests: a modelling study. Atmos. Environ., 40, 5712–5726.
Simpson, D., Aas, W., Bartnicki, al. (2011). Atmospheric transport and deposition of nitrogen in Europe. In: The European Nitrogen Assessment, ed. Sutton, M. A., Howard, C. M., Erisman, J. al., Cambridge University Press.
,SRIC (2005). Adipic acid, nitric acid and caprolactam production data 1974–2004, Tables from the Directory of Chemical Producers, dated 2 December 2005. SRI Consulting, Gaithersburg, MD.
Stoddard, J. L. (1994). Long-term changes in watershed retention of nitrogen: its causes and aquatic consequences. In: Environmental Chemistry of Lakes and Reservoirs, ed. Baker, L. A.. Washington (DC): American Chemical Society, pp. 223–284.
Streets, D. G. and Waldhoff, S. T. (2000). Present and future emissions of air pollutants in China: SO2, NOx, and CO. Atmos. Environ., 34, 363–374.
Sutton, M. A., Nemitz, E., Erisman, J. al. (2007). Challenges in quantifying biosphere–atmosphere exchange of nitrogen species. Environ. Pollu., 150, 125–139.
Sutton, M. A., Howard, C. M., Erisman, J. al. (2011). Assessing our nitrogen inheritance. In: The European Nitrogen Assessment, ed. Sutton, M. A., Howard, C. M., Erisman, J. al., Cambridge University Press.
Svirejeva-Hopkins, A., Reis, S., Nardoto, al. (2011). Nitrogen flows and fate in urban landscapes. In: The European Nitrogen Assessment, ed. Sutton, M. A., Howard, C. M., Erisman, J. W. et al. Cambridge University Press.
Uher, G. (2006). Distribution and air-sea exchange of reduced sulphur gases in European coastal waters. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci., 70, 338–360.
,Umweltbundesamt (2009a). Integrierte Strategie zur Minderung von Stickstoffemissionen, Umweltbundesamt. Available at, last accessed on 26.11.2008.
,Umweltbundesamt (2009b). Hintergrundpapier zu einer multimedialen Stickstoffemissionsminderungsstrategie, Umweltbundesamt. Available at, last accessed on 26.11.2008.
,UNEP and WHRC (2007). Reactive nitrogen in the environment: too much or too little of a good thing: United Nations Environment Programme: Paris.
Aardenne, J. A., Dentener, F. J., Olivier, J. G. J., Klein Goldewijk, C. G. M. and Lelieveld, J. (2001). A high resolution dataset of historical anthropogenic trace gas emissions for the period 1890–1990. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles, 15, 909–928.
Aardenne, J., Doering, U., Monni, al. (2009). Emission Inventory for period 1990–2005 on 0.1x0.1 grid. Report to the Sixth Framework Programme Project No. 036961-CIRCE, 23 January 2009.
Werft, , G. et al. (2010). (site accessed 1 June 2010).
Drecht, G., Bouwman, A. F., Harrison, J. and Knoop, J. M. (2009). Global nitrogen and phosphate in urban wastewater, between 1970 and 2050. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles, 23 (GB0A03).
Egmond, K., Bresser, T. and Bouwman, L. (2002). The European Nitrogen Case. Ambio, 31, 72–78.
Grinsven, J. J. M., Schijndel, M. W., Schotten, C. G. J. and Zeijts, H. (2003). Integrale analyse van stikstofstromen en stikstof beleid in Nederland, RIVM report 500003001, RIVM, Bilthoven, The Netherlands.
Velthof, G., Oudendaag, D., Witzke, al. (2009). Integrated assessment of nitrogen emissions from agriculture in EU-27 using MITERRA-EUROPE. J. Environ. Qual., 38, 402–417.
Vestreng, V., Ntziachristos, L., Semb, al. (2009). Evolution of NOx emissions in Europe with focus on road transport control measures. Atmos. Chem. Phys., 9, 1503–1520.
Voss, M., Baker, A.Bange, H. W. (2011). Nitrogen processes in coastal and marine systems. In: The European Nitrogen Assessment, ed. Sutton, M. A., Howard, C. M., Erisman, J. W. et al., Cambridge University Press.
Wang, C., Corbett, J. J. and Firestone, J. (2007). Improving spatial representation of global ship emissions inventories. Environ. Sci. Technol., 42, 193–199.
Weigelt, A., Weisser, W. W., Buchmann, N. and Scherer-Lorenzen, M. (2009). Biodiversity for multifunctional grasslands: equal productivity in high-diversity low-input and low-diversity high-input systems. Biogeosciences, 6, 1695–1706.
Weiss, F., Leip, A., 2010. Methodology for quantification of greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions from the livestock sector in EU27. In: Leip, A., Weiss, F., Wassenaar, T., Pexz, I., Fullmann, T., Londjani, P., Tubiesso, F., Grandgirand, D., Monni, S., Bicüa, K. (eds.) Evaluation of the livestock sector's contribution to the EU greenhouse gas emissions (GGELS) – final report. European Commission, Joint Research Centre.
Wieland, U. (2003). Water use and waste water treatment in the EU and in candidate countries. Statistics in Focus, Theme 8–13/2003, Eurostat.
Winiwarter, W., Hettelingh, J. P., Bouwman, al. (2011). Future scenarios of nitrogen in Europe. In: The European Nitrogen Assessment, ed. Sutton, M. A., Howard, C. M., Erisman, J. al., Cambridge University Press.