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too much nitrogen in our planet's ecosystem??

 
pollinator
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:It has been my experience that Nitrogen is more likely to go through many morphological forms than it is to become "locked up by nature".
One of the few items that can hold onto its nitrogen after death, black locust, eucalyptus, redwoods, cypress and other rot resistant woods, I laid out a log of black Locust about 25 years ago on my land that was in the city, it was still there in spite of the efforts from termites 15 years later.
It had started to show some deterioration from fungi but they (the mycelium) were having a hard time getting into the heart wood.
Then I met a man who used BL for his fence posts and he showed me some that had been in the ground for 25 years and they were not rotting but they did show signs of weathering.
I found out from him that 30 years was his average life span for BL fence posts.
He even showed me a destroyed wood chipper that he had used to grind up some BL branches, the hammers were worn out as if they had been pounding on rocks instead of wood fibers.

My own thought is that without a thriving microbiome, not much nitrogen would be usable by our plants, I've even poured ammonia on test areas of pasture where I know I have a thriving microbiome with no visible effect.
I've also got a test area that I can wipe out the microbiome and then rebuild it with known species of bacteria and fungi, this area, when made barren, didn't show any signs of nitrogen uptake by the plants just installed. (they started to show all the signs of Nitrogen defects within a week of going into that ground.

Nitrogen can be stores as ammonia compounds, nitrites and nitrates are the other "normal" "solid forms I've come across regularly when testing soils.
It will also be stored in animals as part of their proteins (soft tissues), fats and in bones and cartilage.

And, we shouldn't forget that plants and animals can get nitrogen from the air as part of the respiration processes.



Yes it may not get locked up completely, but it's supporting plant growth, photosynthesis, carbon capture etc throughout many of those phases, vs. hanging inert in the air and not supporting a plant (or alga).  Even slowing a nutrient's cycle has an impact.  The impact of a haber bosch generation of a bag of nitrate can last far longer than the impact of the carbon released during that generation....
 
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I highly recommend this series of articles (now 4) on nitrogen by Ian Angus:
https://climateandcapitalism.com/2019/10/25/disrupting-the-nitrogen-cycle-articles-on-a-major-metabolic-rift/

(These are part of a larger series on "metabolic rifts": how humans have disrupted natural cycles.)

Joshua, your use of the term "fixed" is confusing to me. I have seen it used only in reference to the soil bacteria that take in N2, atmospheric nitrogen gas, and convert it ("nitrify") to plant available form in the soil. Basically, as I understand it, these bacteria take in the N2 and use it for their own body processes, and for those bacteria with a symbiotic plant relationship, offer it as nitrate of ammonium to the partner plant. Excess N is excreted so is then available to other plants.

The danger of excess, human applied N, is that it is leached into groundwater where it becomes a pollutant, or is released into the atmosphere as Nitrous Oxide, a potent greenhouse gas. There may be other ways excess N pollutes that I'm not yet aware of.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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"On average, the cycle from initial fixation back to the atmosphere as dinitrogen takes about 500 years for the nitrogen in soils and 10 times longer longer in the oceans." From the creative capitalism article linked in some posts above.  This answers one of my main questions.

Fixed nitrogen--i guess I should say "plant-available" or "reactive" nitrogen, that's what I had in mind. As distinct from n2, the nitrogen in the air that's 79% of our atmosphere.

I realize now my initial question was really about "do I have a [reactive] nitrogen footprint as well as a carbon footprint "?

And it seems that I do.  Unless I deliberately foster dinitrification by composting, maybe that releases the N2 again, but if so it also releases a lot of carbon as CO2.  So not a great tradeoff.

In terms of taking toxic gick from the waste streams along with available nitrogen, I guess I'm thinking that can be put to work capturing some carbon at least, not for food production, not for fodder production, and then it's also being taken out of the waterways.

Hm...if cars produce lots of reactive nitrogen as nitrous oxide...and that rains down, is it a major factor in our food supply?  If 20% of our body's nitrogen is from haber-bosch nitrogen, what percentage is from car exhaust??

 
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