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TitleShorter fries? An alternative policy to support a reduction of nitrogen contamination from agricultural crop production
AuthorSomers, G; Savard, M MORCID logo
SourceEnvironmental Science & Policy vol. 47, 2014 p. 177-185,
Alt SeriesEarth Sciences Sector, Contribution Series 20140008
PublisherElsevier BV
Mediapaper; on-line; digital
File formatpdf
Subjectsenvironmental geology; vegetation; nitrogen; fertilizers, nitrogen; environmental impacts; environmental studies
Illustrationsflow charts; tables
ProgramGroundwater Geoscience Program Management - Groundwater Geoscience
Released2014 12 30
AbstractFeeding the growing population of the world poses significant policy challenges for the sustainability of global ecosystems. A prime example is the degradation of water quality due to the growing imbalance in the terrestrial nitrogen (N) cycle linked to increasing production of reactive N (Nr). Environmental impacts such as groundwater quality degradation and eutrophication of coastal estuaries tend to be local in nature but may be closely connected to global economic factors. Environmental accounting of the N fluxes entering, leaving or remaining in Prince Edward Island (PEI), a small agricultural region, demonstrate the importance of a single industry (potato production) in controlling the local N cycle. The resulting burden of Nr has its most profound effect on groundwater, the sole source of drinking water and the primary pathway of N to the Province's economically and ecolog- ically important estuaries. At the same time, agriculture is a vital part of the local economy, and regulators are faced with the challenge of meeting environmental goals and still maintaining an industry that is competitive and responsive to global market trends. New, innovative policy alternatives are needed to foster more effective implementation of sustainable agricultural practices. An approach that focuses on influencing consumer choices toward more environmentally responsible production practices at the point of origin may help remove some of the important, non-technical barriers to sustainable food production practices. In practice, a system that documents the environmental performance throughout the full supply chain from producer to retailer would have to be implemented.
Summary(Plain Language Summary, not published)
The imbalance in the Earth¿s nitrogen (N) cycle linked to the increasing production of potentially harmful reactive N (Nr) entails environmental impacts such as groundwater quality degradation and eutrophication of coastal estuaries, which are dominantly local in nature but closely connected to global economic factors. In this research, we examine the overall N fluxes to and from Prince Edward Island (PEI), the fate of N remaining in PEI, and the links between local and global environmental and economic trends. Potato production dominates the PEI N cycle, and N imports largely as Nr far exceed quantities of harmless N fixed in exported food products. The Nr remaining in the province has negative effects on groundwater, the sole source of drinking water and the primary pathway of N to estuaries. To counteract this trend, adoption of innovative approaches to nutrient management may include a new global strategy based on influencing consumers toward sustainable purchase choices.

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