Nitrogen Loss

Together with the N-Print Initiative, INI developed a new indicator that describes the potential loss of reactive nitrogen to the environment. 

For different countries and regions of the world this loss is shown as a result of the production and consumption of food and the use of energy (e.g. for electricity production, industry and transport), and is expressed as the reactive nitrogen loss per capita per year. For this loss no distinction is made between losses to air, soil and water. This loss is a measure of potential reactive nitrogen pollution; the actual pollution depends on environmental factors and the extent to which the waste flows at production and consumption of food and energy are being reused. The picture below shows the losses for different continent of the world and the world as a whole.

N Loss Indicator


In 2008, the year for which the data are shown in the chart, the global production and consumption of food and energy results in an average reactive nitrogen loss of 29 kg of nitrogen per inhabitant per year. Of the total loss, 5 kg is the result of energy use, 18 kg is from food production (agriculture), 1 kg due to food processing and 4 kg is released during food consumption. The European reactive nitrogen loss per person is about 10 kg higher than the global loss and is almost half of that in North America, but twice as high as in Africa. The energy component is relatively large in industrialized countries, while the contribution of food production and consumption is large in countries with an extensive livestock sector and high levels of meat consumption. While the first chart only shows the overall losses for whole regions, the map below shows the same information, but now for individual countries.

When clicking the markers on the map, a chart pops up showing the nitrogen losses for that particular country and compares them with those of the respective regions in the world.




This indicator is listed as a new indicator under the Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi Biodiversity Target 8 on Pollution. Look at the site of the Biodiversity Indicator Partnership (BIP; of which INI is a member) for more information about this indicator (and also the other biodiversity indicators under the CBD).