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According to a new report, an imbalance in nitrogen availability has been reported across the globe, with some places having an excess and others a shortage of the element.


  • Rising carbon dioxide levels and other global changes have increased demand for nitrogen by plants and microbes.

  • Plants grow quickly when exposed to high carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations.

  • The presence of high CO2 levels dilutes the availability of nitrogen in Plants, thus, their demand for nitrogen goes up.

  • Other factors contributing to nitrogen decline include warming and disturbances, including wildfire.

  • Many areas of the world, where people do not contribute excessive amounts of nitrogen to the soil, long-term records demonstrate that nitrogen availability is declining, with important consequences for plant and animal growth.

  • Burning fossil fuels, application of nitrogen-based fertilizers, and other activities can dramatically increase the amount of biologically available nitrogen in an ecosystem.

Consequences of Nitrogen Imbalance?

  • Declining nitrogen availability can be linked to insect apocalypse.

  • Climate change, insecticides, herbicides, light pollution, invasive species and changes in agriculture and land use are causing Earth to lose about 1-2% of its insects each year. This is being termed as “Insect Apocalypse”.

  • It can encourage swarming in some species of locusts.

  • Further, low nitrogen availability could limit plants’ ability to capture CO2 from the atmosphere.

  • When excessive nitrogen accumulates in the streams, inland lakes and coastal bodies of water, it could sometimes result in eutrophication, leading to harmful algal blooms, dead zones and fish kills.

  • Eutrophication: When a water body becomes overly enriched with minerals and nutrients which induce excessive growth of algae or algal bloom. This process also results in oxygen depletion of the water body.

  • In humans, high levels of nitrogen in the groundwater are linked to intestinal cancers and miscarriages and can be fatal for infants.


  • Nitrogen is one of the primary nutrients critical for the survival of all living organisms.

  • Nitrogen gas makes up 78% of our atmosphere and nitrogen is also a part of many molecules essential to life like proteins, nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) and some vitamins.

  • Nitrogen is found in other biologically important compounds such as alkaloids and urea too.

  • Nitrogen is thus an essential nutrient for all life-forms and life would be simple if all these life-forms could use the atmospheric nitrogen directly.

  • Although nitrogen is abundant in the atmosphere as Nitrogen gas (N2), it is largely inaccessible in this form to most organisms, making nitrogen a scarce resource and often limiting primary productivity in many ecosystems.

  • Only when nitrogen is converted from Nitrogen gas into ammonia (NH3) does it become available to primary producers, such as plants.

  • The process of converting Nitrogen gas (N2) into biologically available nitrogen, that is ammonia, by nitrogen fixing microorganisms, is called nitrogen fixation.