Nitrogen

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Nitrogen is an element vital to life, and stimulates the growth of plants. Most of the nitrogen on earth is located in the atmosphere, and historically only enters terrestrial systems through biological nitrogen fixation by certain plants (particularly Legumes). The development of the Haber-Bosch process allows industrial communities to use fossil fuels to extract nitrogen from the atmosphere as ammonia, and use it as a fertilizer in agriculture, as ammonium salts. This pathway revolutionized agricultural production by disconnecting agricultural production from the manure of livestock. Industrial fixation increased exponentially since World War 2, and now our industries have doubled global nitrogen fixation. Nitrogen is also very soluble in water, and so nitrogen applied to land inevitably enters into aquatic ecosystems, where it promotes growth of algae, and ultimately eutrophication. In the Salish Sea, this dynamic is having the greatest effects in South Puget Sound which has experienced low oxygen events. And Hood Canal which has naturally low exchange, and so is prone to eutrophication.

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