Value of nitrogen fixation
Economic value of nitrogen fixation can be seen as avoided costs in agriculture. Biological nitrogen fixation decreases the need to fertilize cultivated soils. In other habitats economic value is indirect. For example soil bacteria fix nitrogen in forests and thus are partly responsible for the tree growth potential.
Health value of nitrogen fixation originates from both cleaner food products and safer environment. Biological nitrogen fixation decreases the need for artificial fertilizing and thus decreases the possible residues in food products and leaching into water system.
Artificial fertilizers can, for example, increase the nitrate quantity in vegetables and drinking water. Elevated nitrate concentration has been studied to cause methemoglobinemia which decreases the transport of oxygen in circulation. Elevated nitrate concentration has also been linked to diabetes, coronary artery disease, cancer and reproductive impairment but the research is still ongoing. Nitric oxide and ammonia emissions accelerate, in turn, the formation of tropospheric ozone and atmospheric fine particles which both cause respiratory diseases.
In aquatic ecosystems fertilizer loading causes eutrophication which may inflict toxic algal blooms.
Nitrogen fixation is crucial for life. Nitrogen compounds are needed to form, for example, amino and nucleic acids (including DNA) and proteins.
- Updated (20.01.2015)