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Issues in Ecology, Issue 01: Human Alteration of the Global Nitrogen Cycle: Causes and Consequences

This report presents an overview of how humans have altered the global nitrogen cycle. An introduction to the nitrogen cycle is provided; as well as human induced nitrogen fixation and its impact on the atmosphere, carbon cycle, aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem function, and biodiversity. The importance of nitrogen as a primary building block of life and its role in biological processes is also explained. Ecosystems that evolved under nitrogen limitation or under other constraints are now inadequately adapted to it. This results in adverse effects such as eutrophication which itself leads to decreased biodiversity Recommendations and management implications in reaction to future human activities that further disrupt the nitrogen cycle are discussed. Issues in Ecology is an ongoing series of reports designed to present major ecological issues in an easy-to-read manner. This Issue summarizes the consensus of a panel of scientific experts based on the information that was current and available at the time of its publication in 1997.
Associated files
Resource Group This resource is part of ESA's Issues in Ecology series.
Resource Group Link
Primary or BEN resource type
Secondary resource type
Discipline Specific Core Concepts
Life science discipline (subject)
Keywords nitrogen cycle; nitrogen saturation; biodiversity; carbon cycle; nitrogen fixation; anthropogenic; report
Intended End User Role
Educational Language
Pedagogical Use Category
Pedagogical Use Description This report can be used for general information, classroom reading and discussion, and as a springboard for more information research. The report illustrates applications of ecology as it relates our society and environment.
Aggregation Level
Full Name of Primary Author Peter M. Vitousek
Primary Author Controlled Name
Primary Author Affiliation Department of Biological
Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford
Primary Author email n/a
Secondary Author Name(s) John Aber, Robert W. Howarth, et al.
Secondary Author Affiliation(s) Complex Systems Research Center, Institute
for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space, University of New Hampshire

Section of Ecology and Systematics,
Corson Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca
Added By Id
  • educationintern
Rights Ecological Society of America's copyright restrictions
Review type
Drought and Water Ecosystem Services Collection Off
Conservation Targets Under Global Change Collection Off
Big Data Collection Off
Editors Choice No
Resource Status
Date Of Record Submission 2002-03-22
I Agree to EcoEdDL's Copyright Policy & Terms of Use No
Date Of Record Release 2010-02-16 01:47:42
Last Modified By Id
  • educationintern
Date Last Modified 2015-03-12 10:16:51
Release Flag Published

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