Nitrogen species distribution in groundwater: A review of historical data with recent sampling in the Gippsland, Victoria (Australia

Michael Adelana1, Michael Heaven2, Mark Holmberg3, Matt Kitching4, George Croatto4

Agriculture Victoria, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources

1 32 Lincoln Square North, Parkville, Victoria 3053, 

2 1301 Hazeldean Road, Ellinbank, Victoria 3821, Australia

3 Cnr Taylor Street & Midland Highway, Bendigo, Victoria 3554

4 Terrace 4, Ernest Jones Drive, Macleod, Victoria 3085


In agricultural regions diffuse pollution by nitrate is considered one of the main causes of groundwater quality deterioration. For agricultural systems that are pasture based, the input loads (e.g. fertiliser, cow dung and urine) can result in loss of nutrients.  Hence, shallow groundwater aquifers in agricultural areas are susceptible to nitrate contamination from losses of N by leaching. A review of historical data, together with recent sampling, was carried out in the Gippsland region of Victoria to map distribution of N-species in shallow aquifer systems. This review revealed that there is limited routine monitoring of nitrate in groundwater.  Nevertheless, based on the limited historical spatial and temporal groundwater chemistry data available, the concentrations of nitrate and ammonium are generally below Australian water quality (ANZECC) limits in the shallow unconfined aquifer in West Gippsland. However, localized clusters of values higher than the ANZECC limit exist in alluvium near Mitchell River, East Gippsland.  In all confined deep aquifer samples the concentrations were found to decrease further. An analysis of groundwater chemistry could not identify a correlation between land use or soil and the concentrations of groundwater nitrate and total nitrogen. Only shallow piezometer samples at Willow Grove, West Gippsland suggested high nitrate reductions under intensely grazed dairy soils.  Site-specific piezometer studies would be required to determine the depth of influence below the soil zone for reduction of nitrate to acceptable concentrations.

The preliminary Danish nitrogen footprint -Applying nitrogen footprints and using policy scenarios to change behavior

Morten Graversgaard1, Tommy Dalgaard1, Allison M. Leach2, Lia R. Cattaneo3, James N. Galloway3

1 Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University, Blichers Allé 20, Tjele DK-8830, Denmark,

2 Department of Natural Resources & the Environment, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824, USA

3 Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, 291 McCormick Rd, Charlottesville, VA 22904, USA


In the past century, human activity has reshaped the global nitrogen (N) cycle, so that the anthropogenic changes to the N cycle have already crossed the safe operating space for the stability of earth system processes. Consumer driven, integrated practice and policy solutions are needed to achieve N source control and mitigation of the unintended consequences of excess N. This paper presents the preliminary results of the first approach to the Danish N footprint model to build awareness of protein consumption and embedded N in Danish society. Denmark’s agriculture has a high meat export-production which have resulted in local N pollution problems. These unintended consequences of meat production in Denmark have raised awareness among citizens, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and politicians to deal with the problem in an integrated manner. There is a growing interest in finding the right suit of policy measures to reduce meat consumption and N pollution in Denmark. In this paper the preliminary Danish N-footprint results will be compared and modelled through 7 policy scenarios (three food production scenarios, one food consumption, one food waste, one energy and one transportation scenario) to find out how policies on protein consumption and N can contribute to a more sustainable pathway in Denmark.

Science at the core of policy and practice: AERIUS, the calculation tool of the Dutch Integrated Approach to Nitrogen

Mark Wimot1, Mireille de Heer2, Addo van Pul3

1National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, RIVM, P.O. Box 1, Bilthoven, 3720 BA,,

2 De Heer & Co., Maarten Schrijverlaan 47, Utrecht, 3526 XW

3 National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, RIVM, P.O. Box 1, Bilthoven, 3720 BA


In northwest Europe deposition of atmospheric nitrogen is one of the main problems to maintain or restore natural habitats into a favourable conservation status. The Integrated Approach to Nitrogen (PAS) of The Netherlands is a national plan combining generic source measures to reduce nitrogen emission levels and ecological restoration measures in Natura 2000 areas, while creating room for economic development. The aim of the PAS is to ensure that conservation goals can be achieved while facilitating further economic development around Natura 2000 areas within strict environmental limits. In this way, the PAS connects economy and ecology. In this paper we will present the PAS and the AERIUS instrument which is built and used to define and watch the environmental limits. Therefore, AERIUS is not only a calculation tool, but also functions as a conceptual framework that was developed according to an innovative approach. An international review panel congratulates the Dutch government with the successful development and implementation of AERIUS.

Newton-Bhabha Virtual Centre on Nitrogen Efficiency of Whole-cropping Systems for improved performance and resilience in agriculture (NEWS India-UK)

M.A. Sutton1, J. Drewer1, N. Raghuram2, D. Kumar3, A. Price4, J.U. Smith4, A. Bhatia3, D. Reay5, D. Subrahmanyam6, A. Ahmad7, U. Skiba1, U. Dragosits1, M. Vieno1, W.J. Bealey1, E. Carnell1, E. Roberts1, A. Stott8, S. Sohi5, A. Moring5, J. Hillier4, D.R. Nayak4, R. Prasana3, R. Singh3, C.N. Neeraja6, S.R. Voleti6, R.M. Kumar6, K. Surekha6, S. Hooda2, R. Babu6, N. Jain3, P. Pandey3, B. Ramakrishnan3, N. das Saha3, H. Pathak3

1 Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), Edinburgh Research Station, Bush Estate, Penicuik, EH26 0QB, Scotland, UK,,

2 School of Biotechnology, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Sector 16C, Dwarka, New Delhi-110078, India

3 ICAR-Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi 110012, India

4 University of Aberdeen, School of Biological Science, Rm G43 23 St Machar Drive, Aberdeen, AB24 3UU, Scotland, UK

5 University of Edinburgh, School of Geosciences, High School Yards, Edinburgh EH8 9XP, Scotland, UK

6 ICAR-Indian Institute of Rice Research, Rajendranagar, Hyderabad-500030, India

7 Department of Botany Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh-202002, UP, India

8 Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), Lancaster Environment Centre, Library Avenue, Lancaster, LA1 4AP, UK


NEWS India UK (Newton-Bhabha Virtual Centre on Nitrogen Efficiency of Whole-cropping Systems for improved performance and resilience in agriculture) is established to promote cooperation between the two countries that demonstrates innovative ways to improve agricultural nitrogen management, allowing increased and more resilient food production in India while reducing nitrogen losses to the environment. Here we present the structure of the Virtual Joint Centre including strategic and scientific goals and objectives as well as the activities planned to achieve these.

EQCom: an education and outreach simulation game for enhancing environmental quality in the commons

W.A. Hammac

USDA, Agriculture Research Service, National Soil Erosion Research Lab, 275 South Russell St., West Lafayette, Indiana, 47907, Ashley.Hammac@USDA.ARS.GOV


EQCom is a simulation game for teaching the effects of conventional farming on natural resources and the social challenges involved in implementing solutions. Players are “farmers” who make a series of choices about farming practices, either conservation or conventional. Outcomes result based on those choices and they include aesthetic and economic consequences. Farmers and society prosper if farmers collectively implement conservation practices and protect common resources, but a farmer’s natural economic incentive is to make choices based on short-term private economics benefits instead of long-term private and public benefits. The natural progression in this game is for soil, air, and water resources to degrade and socio-eco-systems to suffer. Farmers will find over time that short-term economic gain must be sacrificed to achieve long-term sustainability and success. Farmers must regulate themselves or be regulated by government to succeed. This is a novel and exciting way to teach students, farmers, policy makers, and others about the complexity of conservation farming. Restoring environmental quality in the commons requires counter intuitive thinking, self-regulation, and consideration of public interest.

Effectiveness of two decades of policy measures to reduce ammonia emissions in the Netherlands

Roy Wichink Kruit1, Jan Aben1, Wilco de Vries1, Ferd Sauter1, Eric van der Swaluw1, Margreet van Zanten1, Addo van Pul1

1 National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Antonie van Leeuwenhoeklaan 9, 3721 MA Bilthoven, the Netherlands,,


In this study, the effectiveness of two decades of policy measures to reduce ammonia emissions in the Netherlands is evaluated. It is shown that the ammonia concentration is more suitable for monitoring policy measures than the ammonium aerosol concentration or the wet deposition of NHx. This study shows that the decrease in ammonia emissions due to policy measures between 1990 and present did not result in a proportional decrease of the ammonia concentration in the air. The less effectively declining ammonia concentrations can largely be explained by the change in atmospheric chemical and meteorological conditions. The large decline in oxidized sulfur and nitrogen concentrations has led to reduced formation of sulfuric and nitric acid and consequently reduced formation of ammonium salts. In this way, relatively more ammonia remained in the atmosphere. Simultaneously, the absorbing surface became less acid, which resulted in less deposition of ammonia and more ammonia remaining in the atmosphere. Meteorology has a significant effect on the year-to-year variation in ammonia concentrations, but does not significantly affect the trend in the ammonia concentrations over the years. It is likely, however, that ammonia concentrations will increase due to climate change, e.g., dryer and warmer springs/summers.

Putting an economic value on nitrogen pollution in Europe: can we improve the unit N cost method using results of the Eurobarometer?

Hans J.M. van Grinsven1 

1Department: Water, Agriculture and Food, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, PO box 303 | 3720 AH, The Hague, The Netherlands


The unit N cost method was applied for the European Nitrogen Assessment (ENA) to monetize the social cost of impacts of N pollution on human health, ecosystems and climate stability for the European Union. Unit costs are based on Willingness To Pay (WTP) of people to prevent these impacts by reducing N pollution. Underlying cost-impact data for various impacts came from diverse sources, apply to different periods and sometimes regions. Incompatibility of data sources may have created artefacts, like an apparent five time higher unit N cost to prevent impacts of N on aquatic ecosystems than on terrestrial ecosystems. This paper explores if we can validate and improve the unit N cost method using the Eurobarometer surveys by the European Commission. This survey polls societal concerns in the European Union including those for environment. A preliminary estimate of the social cost of N pollution in 2013-2014 for the European Union based on the Eurobarometer is more than three times lower than the value for 2008 as derived in ENA and differences in this cost between low and high GDP countries are larger than reported in ENA.

Options to decrease N losses from our global food system

J.G. Conijn1, J.J. Schröder1, P.S. Bindraban2

1 Wageningen University and Research centre, Droevendaalsesteeg 4, 6708 PB, Wageningen, the Netherlands, Email address of corresponding author:

2 VFRC-IFDC, 1901 Pennsylvania Ave., NW. Washington, DC 20006. USA.


Food production causes losses of reactive nitrogen (N) to the detriment of the environment but the current level of losses per unit food leaves room for improvement. Due to feedback mechanisms a comprehensive analysis is needed and we developed a quantitative model of the whole food system to assess the effects of improvement measures on the required amount of N fertilizer and resulting N losses as function of food demand. For 2010 we calculate a total N loss from agricultural soils and ammonia volatilization of 172 Mt N y-1 and an amount of 32 Mt N y-1 entering households in food items. This implies a N loss ratio of 5.4 kg N lost per kg N purchased by households. Due to higher food demand and changed diet as projected for 2050, the N loss ratio increases to almost 6.0 if equal N use efficiencies are used as in 2010 and the total N loss amounts to 293 Mt N y-1. The effects of a number of improvement measures are explored, such as less animal-based products in the human diet and reduced N loss from agricultural soils. Single measures can reduce this ratio to as low as 3.8 but when all measures are combined, the ratio drops to 2.0 with a total N loss of 84 Mt N y-1 without affecting the projected food demand for 2050. Our results clearly illustrate that the effectiveness of measures cannot be realistically estimated without taking the whole system into account and that the N loss ratio is a better indicator to estimate environmental impacts of N use than N use efficiency.

Nitrogen and the Sustainable Development Goals

David R. Kanter, Xin Zhang, Clare M. Howard3

1 Department of Environmental Studies, New York University, 285 Mercer Street, New York, NY, 10003, USA,

2 University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, 301 Braddock Rd., Frostburg, MD, 21532, USA,

3Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Bush Estate, Scotland, EH26 OQB, UK,, 


The United Nations’ new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to maximize social, economic and environmental wellbeing, from ending hunger and poverty, to enhancing access to education and healthcare, to protecting biodiversity. The inevitable overlap between these broad goals call for implementation strategies that can exploit potential co-benefits. Improving nitrogen management provides a key opportunity for strengthening the three pillars of sustainable development, given nitrogen’s widespread uses and impacts. For example, nitrogen inputs are fundamental to modern food production and rural livelihoods, with Haber-Bosch nitrogen responsible for the existence of almost half the world’s current population. And yet nitrogen pollution is also one of the most important environmental issues of the 21st century, contributing to air and water pollution, biodiversity loss, climate change and stratospheric ozone depletion. Consequently, improving humanity’s complex relationship with nitrogen could be a key component of implementing the SDGs from local to global scales, as well as measuring progress towards them. This study examines the links between nitrogen management and the SDGs. We identify 16 of the 17 goals as relevant to nitrogen management, and group them into three categories: those that require more nitrogen, those that require less nitrogen, and those that could help improve nitrogen management. The “Towards an International Nitrogen Management System” project has taken the first steps to create a science support system for the emerging nitrogen policy community, which could be used to better integrate nitrogen management into implementation strategies for the Sustainable Development Goals.