Atmospheric reactive nitrogen in China: sources, recent trends, and damage costs

Journal or Book Title: Environmental Science & Technology

Volume/Issue: 46

Page Number(s): 9420−9427

Year Published: 2012


Human activities have intensely altered the global nitrogen cycle and produced nitrogenous gases of environmental significance, especially in China where the most serious atmospheric nitrogen pollution worldwide exists. We present a comprehensive assessment of ammonia (NH3), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions in China based on a full cycle analysis. Total reactive nitrogen (Nr) emission more than doubled over the past three decades, during which the trend of increase slowed for NH3 emissions after 2000, while the trend of increase continued to accelerate for NOx and N2O emissions. Several hotspots were identified, and their Nr emissions were about 10 times higher than others. Agricultural sources take 95% of total NH3 emission; fossil fuel combustion accounts for 96% of total NOx emission; while agricultural (51%) and natural sources (forest and surface water, 39%) both contribute to the N2O emission in China. Total atmospheric Nr emissions related health damage in 2008 in China reached US$19-62 billion, accounting for 0.4-1.4% of China's gross domestic product, of which 52-60% were from NH3 emission, and 39-47% were from NOx emission. These findings provide policy-makers an integrated view of Nr sources and health damage to address the significant challenges associated with the reduction of air pollution.

DOI: 10.1021/es301446g

Type of Publication: Journal Article