These are the consequences to nature of nitrogen emissions: “soils are acidic”

Fewer insects, fewer birds. It is quieter in Veluwe, notice of forests and ecology. They see that too much nitrogen disrupts the ecosystem. Therefore, interference in their view is inevitable.

Ecologist Arnold van den Burg argues that nature suffers from nitrogen emissions. Although nature appears green to outsiders, it says nothing about the problems that exist. “The soil is acidic, sometimes more acidic than cola. This affects the entire ecosystem.”

Soil acidification

Soil acidification causes some plants to decline, which can no longer grow there. This is bad for insects, which provide important nutrients to other animals. This stresses the entire food chain.

He points out the consequences for songbirds. They don’t get enough calcium, which leads to weak legs, among other things. “Birds can no longer find the appropriate nutrients and leave the area,” says van den Burg. “This is disastrous for the population. It also affects other animals in the food chain.”

Do you have problems with the models?

He argues the argument that the problems lie primarily in nitrogen calculations and models, argue opponents of nitrogen scales. “This is not true. Basic processes in nature no longer occur.”

The ecologist is of the opinion that the birds still build a nest during the breeding period. “But they don’t lay eggs anymore because of the calcium deficiency. Then there’s something seriously wrong.”

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care in the forest

Forest ranger Laurens Jansen of Staatsb notes that many species of plants and animals are disappearing in Veluwe in recent years. He is worried. “Insects, plants and butterflies are disappearing. It might be hard for the average person to imagine, because they see so much green. But the system has eroded.”

Is biodiversity loss due to nitrogen emissions? “The mineral balance in the earth has been lost,” says Al-Haraji. “The very high concentration of nitrogen results in monotonous plants. As a result, important nutrients disappear.”

Acidification is increasing

Ecologist van den Burg sees the effect of soil acidification as increasing. “It’s gone really fast in 20 years.”

He says it will continue if nitrogen continues to drop. “There is no expected biodiversity in the acid forest. The balance has been lost.”

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Water quality and food supply

Forest ranger Jansen expresses his concerns not only about the disappearance of colorful landscapes. As plant species disappear, so do the animals that live on them. They are very important for crop pollination and thus food production.

In addition, the current state of nature has consequences for our water needs. “The damaged soil is not good for the water quality. In some places the water is no longer safe to drink.”

recovery metrics

The two points for remedial measures to prevent soil acidification. Experiments are underway with this, for example by spreading crust granules that release nutrients on the ground.

“It works great for birds,” says van den Burg. But the two think it makes sense to turn off the “nitrogen tap.” Scanning is now done with the tap open.

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The problem has been going on for decades

Wim de Vries agrees that strict measures should be taken. He is Professor of Nitrogen Impact Analysis at Wageningen University.

He says the nitrogen problem is not a thing of recent years. He’s been playing for over 40 years. “Nature will be irreparably damaged if we continue like this,” he warns.

change track

De Vries believes that a lot can be achieved through innovations, but more is needed in the agricultural sector. It contributes a lot to nitrogen emissions. More than 60 percent of emissions come from agriculture, mainly from cow and pig manure.

“We will not achieve the goals with technical innovations alone. There is a need to change course. We will have to keep fewer animals.”

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as cheap as possible

In the sector as a whole, he adds, not much has been done in recent years to reduce asphyxiation emissions. Although farmers are not always warned of the consequences.

“That’s the bad thing about it. They chased in one direction to produce as much as possible for the cheapest possible.” He points to the disappearance of the milk share in 2015 and the banks that invested in the livestock industry.

cheap food

He says: We have to get rid of that. He finds it incomprehensible that meat now “costs in euros what it did 50 years ago in a guilder”.

According to the professor, we pay very little for our food. “The farmer needs an income model. The food system needs to be reformed. This is also a message to the consumer.”

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