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Europe, and especially the European Union (EU), has many governmental policy measures aimed at decreasing unwanted reactive nitrogen (Nr) emissions from combustion, agriculture and urban wastes. Many of these policy measures have an ‘effects-based approach’, and focus on single Nr compounds, single sectors and either on air or waters.
This chapter addresses the origin, objectives and targets of EU policy measures related to Nr emissions, considers which instruments are being used to implement the policies and briefly discusses the effects of the policy measures.
The chapter starts with a brief description of the basic elements of governmental policy measures.
A review of the main international conventions and EU policies related to emissions of Nr to air and water is then provided.
Finally the chapter provides a semi-quantitative assessment of the effectiveness and efficiency of European policy measures.
Key findings/state of knowledge
International conventions and other treaties have played a key role in raising awareness and establishing policy measures for Nr emissions abatement in EU through so-called Directives and Regulations.
There are many different EU Directives, often addressing individual Nr compounds from individual sectors (e.g. NOx emissions from combustion; NH3 emissions from agriculture, pollution of groundwater and surface water by nitrates from agriculture, discharge of total nitrogen from urban sewage to surface waters).
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.
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.
Reactive nitrogen (Nr) occurs in different forms, arises from a wide range of activities and sources, and leads to environmental impacts over different spatial and temporal scales.
Integrated approaches to N management are anticipated to provide more effective (larger decreases in unwanted emissions) and /or more efficient (less side effects, less costs) policy measures than policy measures based on single sources and pollutant species.
There are many notions of integrated approaches, but as yet little consensus about the best integrated approaches. There is also little quantitative empirical evidence of the performance of these approaches in practice.
The pitfall of integrated approaches is that they may be more complex to agree, leading to a delayed implementation.
Based on recent literature and a discussion among experts, the present chapter provides a conceptual framework for developing integrated approaches to N management.
Whilst discussing the framework, various examples of existing partially integrated N management approaches have been considered.
A package of key actions in different sectors is envisaged that, together, should contribute to further developing integrated approaches to N management in the future
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