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Brazilian Journal of Biology

Print version ISSN 1519-6984

Abstract

WATANABE, M; ORTEGA, E; BERGIER, I  and  SILVA, JSV. Nitrogen cycle and ecosystem services in the Brazilian La Plata Basin: anthropogenic influence and climate change. Braz. J. Biol. [online]. 2012, vol.72, n.3, suppl., pp.691-708. ISSN 1519-6984.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1519-69842012000400008.

The increasing human demand for food, raw material and energy has radically modified both the landscape and biogeochemical cycles in many river basins in the world. The interference of human activities on the Biosphere is so significant that it has doubled the amount of reactive nitrogen due to industrial fertiliser production (Haber-Bosch), fossil fuel burning and land-use change over the last century. In this context, the Brazilian La Plata Basin contributes to the alteration of the nitrogen cycle in South America because of its huge agricultural and grazing area that meets the demands of its large urban centres - Sao Paulo, for instance - and also external markets abroad. In this paper, we estimate the current inputs and outputs of anthropogenic nitrogen (in kg N.km-2.yr-1) in the basin. In the results, we observe that soybean plays a very important role in the Brazilian La Plata, since it contributes with an annual entrance of about 1.8 TgN due to biological nitrogen fixation. Moreover, our estimate indicates that the export of soybean products accounts for roughly 1.0 TgN which is greater than the annual nitrogen riverine exports from Brazilian Parana, Paraguay and Uruguay rivers together. Complimentarily, we built future scenarios representing changes in the nitrogen cycle profile considering two scenarios of climate change for 2070-2100 (based on IPCC's A2 and B2) that will affect land-use, nitrogen inputs, and loss of such nutrients in the basin. Finally, we discuss how both scenarios will affect human well-being since there is a connection between nitrogen cycle and ecosystem services that affect local and global populations, such as food and fibre production and climate regulation.

Keywords : nitrogen; nitrogen cycle; climate change; ecosystem services; La Plata Basin.

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