A new study by researchers at North Carolina State University and Duke University says that the recent rapid increase in fixed nitrogen could pose as much of a danger to Earth's environment as the rapid increase in climate-warming atmospheric carbon dioxide. Human production of fixed nitrogen, used mostly to fertilize crops, is now five times higher than it was 60 years ago. "Too much nitrogen can affect human health, reduce biodiversity and amplify global warming," warns study author Viney Aneja, professor of marine, earth and atmospheric science at NC State. The study authors question whether Earth's current denitrification process can continue to keep up with the human production of fixed nitrogen and point out that denitrification itself can have negative atmospheric consequences through production of nitrous oxide that contributes to global warming.
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