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Reactive nitrogen (Nr) is of fundamental importance in biological and chemical processes in the atmosphere–biosphere system, altering the Earth's climate balance in many ways. These include the direct and indirect emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O), atmospheric Nr deposition and tropospheric ozone formation (O3), both of which alter the biospheric CO2 sink, Nr supply effects on CH4 emissions, and the formation of secondary atmospheric aerosols resulting from the emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and ammonia (NH3).
Human production and release of Nr into the environment is thus expected to have been an important driver of European greenhouse balance. Until now, no assessment has been made of how much of an effect European Nr emissions are having on net warming or cooling.
This chapter summarizes current knowledge of the role of Nr for global warming. Particular attention is given to the consequences of atmospheric Nr emissions. The chapter draws on inventory data and review of the literature to assess the contribution of anthropogenic atmospheric Nr emissons to the overall change in radiative forcing (between 1750 and 2005) that can be attributed to activities in Europe.
The use of Nr fertilizers has major additional effects on climate balance by allowing increased crop and feed production and larger populations of livestock and humans, but these indirect effects are not assessed here.
Most regional watersheds in Europe constitute managed human territories importing large amounts of new reactive nitrogen.
As a consequence, groundwater, surface freshwater and coastal seawater are undergoing severe nitrogen contamination and/or eutrophication problems.
A comprehensive evaluation of net anthropogenic inputs of reactive nitrogen (NANI) through atmospheric deposition, crop N fixation, fertiliser use and import of food and feed has been carried out for all European watersheds. A database on N, P and Si fluxes delivered at the basin outlets has been assembled.
A number of modelling approaches based on either statistical regression analysis or mechanistic description of the processes involved in nitrogen transfer and transformations have been developed for relating N inputs to watersheds to outputs into coastal marine ecosystems.
Key findings/state of knowledge
Throughout Europe, NANI represents 3700 kgN/km²/yr (range, 0–8400 depending on the watershed), i.e. five times the background rate of natural N2 fixation.
A mean of approximately 78% of NANI does not reach the basin outlet, but instead is stored (in soils, sediments or ground water) or eliminated to the atmosphere as reactive N forms or as N2.
N delivery to the European marine coastal zone totals 810 kgN/km²/yr (range, 200–4000 depending on the watershed), about four times the natural background. In areas of limited availability of silica, these inputs cause harmful algal blooms.
Nitrogen (N) inputs from human activities have led to ecological deteriorations in large parts of the coastal oceans along European coastlines, including harmful algae blooms and anoxia.
Riverine N-loads are the most pronounced nitrogen sources to coasts and estuaries. Other significant sources are nitrogen in atmospheric deposition and fixation.
This chapter describes all major N-turnover processes which are important for the understanding of the complexity of marine nitrogen cycling, including information on biodiversity.
Linkages to other major elemental cycles like carbon, oxygen, phosphorus and silica are briefly described in this chapter.
A tentative budget of all major sources and sinks of nitrogen integrated for global coasts is presented, indicating uncertainties where present, especially the N-loss capacity of ocean shelf sediments.
Finally, specific nitrogen problems in the European Regional Seas, including the Baltic Sea, Black Sea, North Sea, and Mediterranean Sea are described.
Key findings/state of knowledge
Today, human activity delivers several times more nitrogen to the coasts compared to the natural background of nitrogen delivery. The source of this is the land drained by the rivers. Therefore, the major European estuaries (e.g. Rhine, Scheldt, Danube and the coastlines receiving the outflow), North Sea, Baltic Sea, and Black Sea as well as some parts of the Mediterranean coastlines are affected by excess nutrient inputs.
Biodiversity is reduced under high nutrient loadings and oxygen deficiency. This process has led to changes in the nutrient recycling in sediments, because mature communities of benthic animals are lacking in disturbed coastal sediments. The recovery of communities may not be possible if high productivity and anoxia persist for longer time periods.
Anthropogenic increase of nitrogen in water poses direct threats to human and aquatic ecosystems. High nitrate concentrations in drinking water are dangerous for human health. In aquatic ecosystems the nitrogen enrichment produces eutrophication, which is responsible for toxic algal blooms, water anoxia, fish kills and habitat and biodiversity loss.
The continuous nitrogen export to waters reduces the capacity of aquatic ecosystems to absorb, reorganise and adapt to external stress, increasing their vulnerability to future unexpected natural or climate events.
Key findings/state of knowledge
Nitrogen concentrations in European rivers, lakes, aquifers and coastal waters are high in many regions. In addition nitrate concentrations are increasing in groundwaters, threatening the long term quality of the resource.
In Europe, nitrogen pressures occur over large areas, implying elevated costs for meeting the long-term good chemical and ecological water quality requirements. A significant part of the European population could be potentially exposed to high nitrate values in drinking water if adequate treatments were not in place. Furthermore many of European aquatic ecosystems are eutrophic or at risk of eutrophication.
Nitrogen pressures have reduced biodiversity and damaged the resilience of aquatic ecosystems and continue to pose a threat to the aquatic environment and to the provision of goods and services from the aquatic ecosystems.
Even under favourable land use scenarios the nitrogen export to European waters and seas is likely to remain significant in the near future. The effects of climate change on nitrogen export to water are still uncertain.
Freshwater ecosystems play a key role in the European nitrogen (N) cycle, both as a reactive agent that transfers, stores and processes N loadings from the atmosphere and terrestrial ecosystems, and as a natural environment severely impacted by the increase of these loadings.
This chapter is a review of major processes and factors controlling N transport and transformations for running waters, standing waters, groundwaters and riparian wetlands.
Key findings/state of knowledge
The major factor controlling N processes in freshwater ecosystems is the residence time of water, which varies widely both in space and in time, and which is sensitive to changes in climate, land use and management.
The effects of increased N loadings to European freshwaters include acidification in semi-natural environments, and eutrophication in more disturbed ecosystems, with associated loss of biodiversity in both cases.
An important part of the nitrogen transferred by surface waters is in the form of organic N, as dissolved organic N (DON) and particulate organic N (PON). This part is dominant in semi-natural catchments throughout Europe and remains a significant component of the total N load even in nitrate enriched rivers.
In eutrophicated standing freshwaters N can be a factor limiting or co-limiting biological production, and control of both N and phosphorus (P) loading is often needed in impacted areas, if ecological quality is to be restored.
To describe microbiological characteristics and epidemiologic features of an outbreak of postpartum endometritis.
Various markers were investigated in five patients and three throat carriage isolates of Streptococcus pyogenes obtained during an outbreak of endometritis occurring in a 13-week period. Molecular characterization included biotyping, T-serotyping, emm gene sequence and restriction, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), and random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) analysis.
Biotype, T-serotype, and genotypic data (emm analysis, PFGE, and RAPD analysis) revealed a close relationship among the isolates from three patients, suggesting that cross-contamination had occurred. These isolates were biotype 1, T type 28, and emm type 28. The isolates from one patient and one carrier differed from those of the index patient by minor variations of the emm amplicon restriction pattern, PFGE pattern, or RAPD pattern. The remaining isolates were phenotypically and genetically different.
Identification of different isolates demonstrated that different strains may circulate simultaneously during a true outbreak and that the predominant strain might persist for several months.
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