Life could not exist without nitrogen and phosphorus. Like other important nutrients, these chemical elements circulate in cycles between air, water, land and living species, in quantities that ecosystems have adjusted to over the course of evolution. But humans have caused serious imbalances in these cycles. This boundary is exceeded.

Industry and agriculture release more nitrogen and phosphorus into the environment than it can absorb while still maintaining a stable balance. In particular, the large amounts of fertilizer we apply to our fields for food, animal feed and energy crops are a problem because the plants we grow only use some of the fertilizer. The rest ends up in the environment, for instance into the oceans by rivers, where it disrupts marine ecosystems and can even lead to zones where life is nearly impossible due to lack of oxygen.

In Belgium, mainly due to the import, Belgium consumes too much phosphorus than the global ecosystem could possibly sustain on the long term. Nitrogen pollution and the associated risk of eutrophication is a crucial issue in Belgium.

A specific factsheet including Belgian situation will be available for download June 24.

External links