Growth of Continental-Scale Metro-Agro-Plexes, Regional Ozone Pollution, and World Food Production

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Science  01 Apr 1994:
Vol. 264, Issue 5155, pp. 74-77
DOI: 10.1126/science.264.5155.74


Three regions of the northern mid-latitudes, the continental-scale metro-agro-plexes, presently dominate global industrial and agricultural productivity. Although these regions cover only 23 percent of the Earth's continents, they account for most of the world's commercial energy consumption, fertilizer use, food-crop production, and food exports. They also account for more than half of the world's atmospheric nitrogen oxide (NOx,) emissions and, as a result, are prone to ground-level ozone (O3) pollution during the summer months. On the basis of a global simulation of atmospheric reactive nitrogen compounds, it is estimated that about 10 to 35 percent of the world's grain production may occur in parts of these regions where ozone pollution may reduce crop yields. Exposure to yield-reducing ozone pollution may triple by 2025 if rising anthropogenic NOx emissions are not abated.