Two N-visualisation tools: game versus reality

A. Hensen, A. Bleeker, J.W. Erisman, A. Syakila, C. Kroeze, W. de Vries, H. Kros, K. Sanders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article describes two different visualisation instruments that can be used for awareness raising and educational purposes: Nitrogenius and the N-visualisation tool. Both instruments aim to convey the complex interactions that occur in the nitrogen (N) cycle and the need for integrated measures when aiming to reduce N-related environmental problems such as eutrophication, acidification or global warming. Nitrogenius was developed in the year 2000. This four-player computer “game” focuses on the Dutch N problems caused by N2O, NH3 and NOx emissions as well as nitrate in surface and ground water. Underlying the glossy user interface is a set of comprehensive models and a database with potential measures that were considered to be feasible at the time. Since 2000, the model has been used for educational purposes annually at Wageningen University. About 150 MSc students played the game, with the aim to solve the N-related problems in the Netherlands. This article analyses these games, and presents the surprising correlation for the period 2000-2007 with the actual environmental trends in the Netherlands. The second tool is an N- visualisation tool that was developed in 2007. This tool provides both a historic overview of the nitrogen issue and demonstrates the effect of seven potential measures on the world wide N cycle. The effects of increased biomass use and intensification of agriculture are examples of included measures. The net effect on global warming, food availability and biodiversity are output parameters of this instrument. The calculations and assumptions underlying this tool are easily accessible through an open source spreadsheet. This tool was used in 2008 and 2009 at Wageningen University for educational purposes. The pros and cons of both games for awareness raising and educational purposes will be discussed
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-299
JournalJournal of integrative Environmental Sciences
Issue numberS1
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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