The Research Coordination Network (RCN) on reactive nitrogen (Nr) sponsored seven workshops on topics including climate-nitrogen interactions, the human health impacts of excess nitrogen in air and water, nitrogen use efficiency, air quality and ecosystem services, the management of nitrogen to produce more food with less pollution, watershed management spanning an international boundary, and harmonizing global nitrogen datasets used in Earth system models and global analyses of agriculture. The RCN facilitated a community of researchers from a wide range of disciplines to exchange information and knowledge about Nr in the environment. The RCN fostered the creative science and synthesis needed to search for well-informed and integrative mitigation strategies, and promote the communication of this science and synthesis to a broad audience of scientists and nonscientists..
Since at least the 1980s, many scientists have studied human alteration of the global nitrogen cycle and its impacts. These efforts have made incremental progress in informing policy makers of the huge perturbation of the N cycle that has immense consequences for human health, ecosystem health, and economic prosperity. This RCN project contributed to advancing the search for sustainable solutions to the challenges of managing nitrogen wisely for producing abundant and nutritious food while minimizing unintended consequences of environmental pollution and human disease. By contributing to the US National Climate Assessment (2011 workshop product), partnering with the agronomic community and fertilizer industry to create a consensus statement (2013 workshop product), linking ecosystem critical loads with economic and non-economic values of ecosystem services (2015 workshop products), publishing an overview for environmental studies students (2016 World Cafe product), and organizing a trans-boundary regional effort of multiple stakeholders (2016 workshop outcome), we have assembled the kinds of partnerships among diverse disciplines and stakeholder groups needed to address this wicked problem with rigorous scientific investigation and cross-disciplinary communication and collaboration.
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