Soil Ecology and Research Group

last update October 7, 2001


Too much of a good thing: the nitrogen pollution problem.


As teachers we are often more concerned about exotic risks such as CFCs in the atmosphere, plutonium on satellites, mercury and cadmium in batteries, or the pesticides and herbicides in our groundwater. But it is becoming increasingly clear that disruptions in more basic processes may cause equally severe problems. For example, nitrogen pollution increasingly appears to be a major environmental disaster, both in water (where it has long been recognized) and on land. In areas where this has been studied it has been nothing short of catastrophic. A long term study in England, showed dramatic declines in the diversity of grassland plots with nitrogen added treatments at nitrogen levels well within current deposition rates.