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A reappraisal of the terrestrial nitrogen cycle: What can we learn by extracting concepts from Gaia theory?

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JournalScience of the Total Environment
DatePublished - 1 Aug 2008
Issue number1-3
Volume400
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)344-355
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Although soil scientists and most environmental scientists are acutely aware of the interactions between the cycling of carbon and nitrogen, for conceptual convenience when portraying the nitrogen cycle in text books the N cycle tends to be considered in isolation from its interactions with the cycling of other elements and water, usually as a snap shot at the current time; the origins of dinitrogen are rarely considered, for example. The authors suggest that Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis provides a useful and stimulating framework for consideration of the terrestrial nitrogen cycle. If it is used, it suggests that urbanization and management of sewage, and intensive animal rearing are probably bigger global issues than nitrogen deposition from fossil fuel combustion, and that plant evolution may be driven by the requirement of locally sustainable and near optimal soil mineral N supply dynamics. This may, in turn, be partially regulating global carbon and oxygen cycles. It is suggested that pollutant N deposition may disrupt this essential natural plant and terrestrial ecosystem evolutionary process, causing biodiversity change. Interactions between the Earth and other bodies in the solar system, and possibly beyond, also need to be considered in the context of the global N cycle over geological time scales. This is because of direct potential impacts on the nitrogen content of the atmosphere, potential long-term impacts of past boloid collisions on plate tectonics and thus on global N cycling via subduction and volcanic emissions, and indirect effects upon C, 0 and water cycling that all may impact upon the N cycle in the long term. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

    Research areas

  • Nitrogen cycling, Gaia, Ammonium, Nitrate, Earth, Weathering, Biodiversity, Evolution, PLANET-HARBORING STARS, SOLAR-SYSTEM BODIES, NITRATE CONCENTRATIONS, TITANS ATMOSPHERE, ORGANIC-MATTER, MASS-BALANCE, NE ATLANTIC, NOBLE-GASES, ORIGIN, CARBON

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