GONZALEZ POLO Marina
More is less: agricultural impacts on the N cycle in Argentina
AUSTIN, A. T.; PIÑEIRO, G.; GONZALEZ POLO, M.
Lugar: Berlín, Heidelberg; Año: 2006 vol. 79 p. 45 - 60
Human impact on nitrogen cycling, in particular the introduction of reactive nitrogen in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, can be examined at multiple scales, from the global impact on atmospheric chemistry to the impact of human activities on soil organic matter and fertility at the scale of square meters. Nevertheless, anthropogenic loading of nitrogen cycling in natural and managed ecosystems can be seen most directly at the regional scale, where concentrated human activity results in disruption of the nitrogen balance, with consequences for biogeochemical cycling and their interactions. Differences in land-use and agricultural practices between North and South America, and the importance of economic drivers that determine the fate of new reactive nitrogen demonstrate a contrasting picture of human impact on N cycling when the consequences are considered at the global vs. the regional scale. In particular, in the Pampa region of Argentina, the central agricultural zone of the country, the expansion of soybean cultivation in the last 20 years and the use of synthetic fertilizers have resulted in an influx of reactive nitrogen into these systems, with unexpected consequences for the nitrogen balance. A mass balance of nitrogen for soybean demonstrates that increased nitrogen inputs from biological fixation do not compensate for losses due to seed export, such that most areas under soybean cultivation are currently experiencing a substantive net loss of nitrogen. In addition, other crops that are currently being fertilized still show a net loss of nitrogen also due to the effect of primary exports from these agroecosystems. These simple models demonstrate that socioeconomic factors in large part drive the contrasting effects of anthropogenic impact on nitrogen cycling at global vs. regional scales. The future impact on nitrogen cycling in the Americas requires an integration of both ecological factors and socioeconomic drivers that will ultimately determine human disruption of the nitrogen cycle.