Nitrogen stewardship in the Anthropocene

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Science  28 Jul 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6349, pp. 350-351
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao0812

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Nitrogen compounds, mainly from agriculture and sewage, are causing widespread eutrophication of estuaries and coastal waters (1). Rapid growth of algal blooms can deprive ecosystems of oxygen when the algae decay, with sometimes extensive ecological and economic effects. Nitrogen oxides from fossil fuel combustion also contribute to eutrophication, and nitrous oxide, N2O, is an extremely powerful greenhouse gas (GHG). On page 405 of this issue, Sinha et al. confirm that climate change is worsening nitrogen pollution, notably coastal eutrophication (2). The results highlight the urgent need to control nitrogen pollution. Solutions may be found by drawing on decarbonization efforts in the energy sector.