Anthropogenic nitrogen autotrophy and heterotrophy of the world's watersheds: Past, present, and future trends

G. Billen, A. Beusen, L. Bouwman, J. Garnier

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    40 Citations (Scopus)


    Anthropogenic nitrogen autotrophy of a territory is defined as the nitrogen flux associated with local production of harvested crops and grass consumed by livestock grazing (in kg N/km(2)/yr). Nitrogen heterotrophy is the nitrogen flux associated with local food and feed consumption by humans and domestic animals. These two summarizing characteristics (anthropogenic nitrogen autotrophy and heterotrophy (ANAH)) indicate the degree of anthropogenic perturbation of the nitrogen cycle by agriculture and human consumption: their balance value provides information on either the potential for commercial export or the need to import agricultural goods; in a watershed, their vector sum is related to the nitrogen flux delivered to the sea. These indicators were calculated for all the watersheds in the Global Nutrient Export from Watersheds (NEWS) database for 1970 and 2000, as well as for 2030 and 2050, according to Millennium Ecosystem Assessment scenarios. During this 30 year period, many watersheds shifted from relatively balanced situations toward either more autotrophic or more heterotrophic conditions. This trend is predicted to become more pronounced over the next 50 years
    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberGB0A11
    Number of pages12
    JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


    • long-term
    • international-trade
    • production systems
    • river continuum
    • seine
    • transfers
    • flows
    • meat


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    • ESS-CC

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