Ecosystem services impacts associated with environmental reactive nitrogen release in the United States

Jana E. Compton1, Daniel J. Sobota2, Jiajia Lin3, and Mario Sengco4

1U.S. EPA Office of Research and Development, Western Ecology Division, Corvallis OR 97333
2 Environmental Solutions Division, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, 811 SW 6th Avenue, Portland OR
3 National Research Council, National Academies of Science, Washington DC 20001, based at US EPA Western Ecology Division
4 U.S. EPA Office of Water, Office of Science and Technology, Washington DC 20460

Nitrogen (N) release to the environment from human activities can have important and costly impacts on human health, recreation, transportation, fisheries, and ecosystem health. Recent efforts to quantify these damage costs have identified annual damages associated with reactive N release to the EU and US in the hundreds of billions of US dollars (USD). The general approach used to estimate these damages associated with reactive N are derived from a variety of methods to estimate economic damages, for example, impacts to human respiratory health in terms of hospital visits and mortality, willingness to pay to improve a water body and costs to replace or treat drinking water systems affected by nitrate or cyanotoxin contamination. These values are then extrapolated to other areas to develop the damage cost estimates that are probably best seen as potential damage costs, particularly for aquatic ecosystems. We seek to provide an additional verification of these potential damages using data assembled by the US EPA for case studies of measured costs of nutrient impacts across the US from 2000-2012. We compare the spatial distribution and the magnitude of these costs with the spatial distribution and magnitude of costs from HUC8 watershed units across the US by Sobota et al. (2015). We anticipate that this analysis will provide a ground truthing of existing damage cost estimates, and continue to support the incorporation of cost and benefit information into communication, outreach, and decision-making related to nutrient pollution.