U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
EPA Science Advisory Board
Background Information

Document NameGlobal patterns of dissolved inorganic and particulate nitrogen inputs to coastal systems: recent conditions and future projections.
Document AuthorSeitzinger, S.P.
Kroeze, C.
Caraco, N.F.
Dentener, F.J.
Styles, R.V.
Short DescriptionEstuaries, 25, 640-655.
CategorySubgroup 1: Characterization of the Cause(s) of Hypoxia
Publication Year2002

Abstract: We examine the global distribution of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) and particulate nitrogen (PN) export to coastal systems and the effect of human activities and natural processes on that export. The analysis is based on DIN and PN models that were combined with spatially explicit global databases. The model results indicate the widely uneven geographic distribution of human activities and rates of nitrogen input to coastal systems at the watershed, latitudinal, and regional-continental scales. Future projections in a business-as-usual scenario indicate that DIN export rates increase from approximately 21 Tg N yr(-1) in 1990 to 47 Tg N yr(-1) by 2050. Increased DIN inputs to coastal systems in most world regions are predicted by 2050. The largest increases are predicted for Southern and Eastern Asia, associated with predicted large increases in population, increased fertilizer use to grow food to meet the dietary demands of that population, and increased industrialization. Results of an alternative scenario for North America and Europe in 2050 indicate that reductions in the human consumption of animal protein could reduce fertilizer use and result in substantial decreases in DIN export rates by rivers. In another scenario for 2050, future air pollution control in Europe that would reduce atmospheric deposition of nitrogen oxides in watersheds is predicted to decrease DIN export by rivers, particularly from Baltic and North Atlantic watersheds. Results of a newly developed global PN river export model indicate that total global PN and DIN export by rivers in 1990 are similar, even though the global distribution of the two differ considerably.