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Researchers to study impacts of pollutant nitrogen on plant species diversity

RIVERSIDE, Calif -- Nitrogen is a beneficial plant fertilizer in small amounts, but large amounts cause negative impacts on ecosystems, such as water pollution, acidification of soils, increased productivity of invasive species, increased probability of wildfire, and a decline of native plant diversity.

Over the past century human activities have more than quadrupled the amount of plant-available nitrogen inputs from the atmosphere compared to natural inputs. What impact does this have on plant species diversity across the United States?

A group of scientists, including researchers at the University of California, Riverside, has received a one-year $100,000 grant from the John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis of the U.S. Geological Survey to examine the evidence for impacts of pollutant nitrogen on plant species diversity across the United States. Specifically, the group, called the Powell Center Working Group on Diversity and Nitrogen Deposition, will synthesize data sets on the impacts of nitrogen deposition on plant diversity.

"Documentation of the impacts of nitrogen deposition on plant diversity are generally lacking in the U.S., but observations from Europe indicate biodiversity losses in areas with high levels of nitrogen pollution," said Edith B. Allen, a professor of plant ecology in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences and the grant's principal investigator at UC Riverside. Other principal investigators are at the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Nitrogen's primary sources are agriculture, industry and automobile emissions. Nitrogen deposition refers to the input of reactive nitrogen species from the atmosphere to the biosphere. The

Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
University of California - Riverside

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