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A National Nitrogen Target for Germany

German Environment Agency, Section II 4.3, Postfach 14 06, 06813 Dessau-Rosslau, Germany
INFRAS, Binzstr. 23, 8045 Zurich, Switzerland
Institute of Landscape Ecology and Resource Management (ILR), Research Centre for BioSystems, Land Use and Nutrition (iFZ), Justus Liebig University Giessen, Heinrich-Buff-Ring 26, 35392 Giessen, Germany
Centre for International Development and Environmental Research (ZEU), Justus Liebig University Giessen, Senckenbergstrasse 3, 35390 Giessen, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2021, 13(3), 1121;
Received: 30 November 2020 / Revised: 15 January 2021 / Accepted: 18 January 2021 / Published: 21 January 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nitrogen: Too Much of a Vital Resource)
The anthropogenic nitrogen cycle is characterized by a high complexity. Different reactive nitrogen species (NH3, NH4+, NO, NO2, NO3, and N2O) are set free by a large variety of anthropogenic activities and cause numerous negative impacts on the environment. The complex nature of the nitrogen cycle hampers public awareness of the nitrogen problem. To overcome this issue and to enhance the sensitivity for policy action, we developed a new, impact-based integrated national target for nitrogen (INTN) for Germany. It is based on six impact indicators, for which we derived the maximum amount of nitrogen losses allowed in each environmental sector to reach related state indicators on a spatial average for Germany. The resulting target sets a limit of nitrogen emissions in Germany of 1053 Gg N yr−1. It could serve as a similar means on the national level as the planetary boundary for reactive nitrogen or the 1.5 °C target of the climate community on the global level. Taking related uncertainties into account, the resulting integrated nitrogen target of 1053 Gg N yr−1 suggests a comprehensible INTN of 1000 Gg N yr−1 for Germany. Compared to the current situation, the overall annual loss of reactive nitrogen in Germany would have to be reduced by approximately one-third. View Full-Text
Keywords: reactive nitrogen; planetary boundary; nitrogen; emission ceiling reactive nitrogen; planetary boundary; nitrogen; emission ceiling
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MDPI and ACS Style

Geupel, M.; Heldstab, J.; Schäppi, B.; Reutimann, J.; Bach, M.; Häußermann, U.; Knoll, L.; Klement, L.; Breuer, L. A National Nitrogen Target for Germany. Sustainability 2021, 13, 1121.

AMA Style

Geupel M, Heldstab J, Schäppi B, Reutimann J, Bach M, Häußermann U, Knoll L, Klement L, Breuer L. A National Nitrogen Target for Germany. Sustainability. 2021; 13(3):1121.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Geupel, Markus, Jürg Heldstab, Bettina Schäppi, Judith Reutimann, Martin Bach, Uwe Häußermann, Lukas Knoll, Laura Klement, and Lutz Breuer. 2021. "A National Nitrogen Target for Germany" Sustainability 13, no. 3: 1121.

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