The Environmental Effects of the Intensive Application of Nitrogen Fertilizers in Western Europe: Past Problems and Future Prospects

Souchu Ph & Etchanchu D (1989). The Environmental Effects of the Intensive Application of Nitrogen Fertilizers in Western Europe: Past Problems and Future Prospects. IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-89-004

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Abstract

Agriculture, along with energy and materials use, is one of the three key sectors of human economic activity that is currently causing many environmental problems in Europe. The focus of this study is on the effects resulting from the excessive use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, and the inefficient use of animal manure as a source of fertilizer. Numerous studies have identified the leaching of nitrogen into aquatic systems as the cause of dangerously high levels of nitrates in drinking waters, eutrophication and anoxia in surface waters, and disruption of the food web in coastal marine waters. This study not only cites the current problems, but also provides an evolutionary perspective, based on an analysis of past problems, the processes which shape the kind of changes that have occurred, and a scenario of problems that might emerge in the future.

Current agricultural problems exist because farmers, and agricultural planners in government and the agro-industry focused too much attention on the benefits of intensive application of nitrogen fertilizers (i.e., spectacular increases in yields of agricultural crops), and did not foresee the environmental problems caused by intensification. The authors of this paper project the effects of fertilizer use to the year 2010, based on the assumption that current trends will continue. They clearly demonstrate that such a trend is not ecologically sustainable, and analyze how future problems can be mitigated by the use of new technologies, and strategies for the more efficient use of animal manure.

This paper is a valuable contribution to IIASA's study, "The Future Environments for Europe: Some Implications for Alternative Development Paths."

Item Type: Monograph (IIASA Working Paper)
Research Programs: Environment Program - Core (ENC)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 02:00
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2016 07:39
URI: http://pure.iiasa.ac.at/3340

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