How do we get out of the nitrogen impasse in the Netherlands? Recalculation of the concentrations, customization on the square kilometer for agriculture and
nature and solutions for the short and longer term.
Focus group Nitrogen1
1 Focus group members: Prof Dr Han Lindeboom, Prof Dr Johan Sanders, Drs Luit Buurma, Carla Soesbergen-Kuipers, Wouter Lenferink MSc., Dr Tom Kuhlman.
In summary: four recommendations and 12 building blocks for solutions
How do we get out of the nitrogen impasse in the Netherlands
Appendix 1: The nitrogen problem
Appendix 2: Provides incorrect correction in RIVM nitrogen model for Construction and Farmers
Appendix 3: Memo from RIVM on ammonia from sea
Appendix 4a: How to deal with nature in the Netherlands
Appendix 4b: The legal (un)tenability of nitrogen policy in the Netherlands
Appendix 5a: Limits to nitrogen use from the perspective of the world food system
Appendix 5b: Suggestions on how to solve the nitrogen problem in the short term, the consequences for the size of the livestock
Appendix 6: Some striking newspaper articles about the nitrogen maze.
Literature and reports consulted
1. Correct calculations of the RIVM model, which provides nitrogen space for the short term, 2. Provide customization on the square kilometer for agriculture AND nature,
3. Change protein composition in animal AND human food.
4. Dutch farmers and knowledge are desperately needed to produce enough protein.
Twelve building blocks for solutions:
1. Correct the measurement correction in the RIVM model, which gives 2.2% nitrogen space nationally. 2. The legal approach is far too complex and unnecessarily leads to ecological problems.
3. To get within the planet’s nitrogen limit, we have to adapt food chains smartly.
4. Choose a local and not a national approach.
5. Point sources of nitrogen have an acute effect on the nearby environment.
6. Learn from a large penguin colony with very high ammonia emissions.
7. Take into account the complex chemical and ecological nitrogen cycle.
8. Take local water management, layout, grazing and maintenance more into account. 9. Dutch nature is man-made and requires clear choices locally.
10. The fundamental challenge is to combine ecology and technology transdisciplinary. 11. Also look at areas in the Netherlands where nature is doing well.
12. More efficient use of agricultural raw materials significantly reduces NH3 emissions .
General recommendation: Compare the recent proposals from Erisman & Strootman, from Natuurmonumenten, Natuur & Milieu, LTO Nederland, VNO-NCW, MKB-Nederland and Bouwend Nederland, plus the above-mentioned building blocks, and compose an optimal approach. Only through an integral and inclusive approach can we do justice to various aspects of the nitrogen problem, healthy nature, sufficient food for everyone and a varied landscape.
For more information: Han.email@example.com (0317-487099)
How do we get out of the nitrogen impasse in the Netherlands? Recalculation of the concentrations, customization on the square kilometer for agriculture and
nature and solutions for the short and longer term.
Focus group Nitrogen
The Netherlands has a short-term and long-term nitrogen problem and it is clear that the amount of nitrogen that enters the air, soil and water must be reduced.
Statement: Nitrogen is tailor-made, the current generic approach is doomed to fail.
Building blocks for a solution:
Depending on the size of the world population, at 7 billion 12 and at 10 billion 9 kg pp/year 4
1. There is an inaccuracy in the RIVM model, correct it so that nitrogen space is created for the short term. RIVM believes that politicians should decide on this.
2. The national legal approach to the nitrogen problem has become extremely complex, is based too much on percentage contributions from sources and leads to local ecological problems. For problems and solutions see pages 36 and 37.
3. Nitrogen production and consumption is a global problem, with humans going far beyond the carrying capacity of our planet. In order to be able to feed all people within the planetary boundary with sufficient protein, we need to reduce our current nitrogen consumption from 24 kg per person per year to 9-12 kg pp/year2 .
4. Nitrogen deposition, on the other hand, is mainly a natural problem at short distances, so choose a chocolate flake instead of a chocolate paste approach,
so for a local and not for a national approach.
5. Nitrogen point sources have an acute effect on the nearby environment. Local sources and nearby sensitive natural areas must be better mapped.
6. Learn from a large penguin colony with very high ammonia emissions that large short- range effects are found on the leeward side.
7. Nitrogen is part of a complex chemical and ecological cycle. Loves
for example, take into account the combination of CO2 and NOx emissions from combustion engines.
8. With local nature, take more account of different processes in the N cycle and other factors that also determine biodiversity, such as water management, layout, grazing, pesticides and maintenance.
9. Dutch nature is composed by man. Dutch nature policy is driven more economically than ecologically and has different approaches. If you want to maintain a sensitive nature, you have to make choices and stick to them.
- The fundamental challenge is ecology and engineering as two sides of the same medal and connecting them through trans-disciplinary scientific collaboration.
- Also look at areas in the Netherlands where nature is doing well.
- Various technologies are available in agriculture that reduce NH3 . emissions to the atmosphere across the entire breadth of livestock farming: for example,
feed composition, manure treatment and more efficient use of agricultural raw materials with the aid of biorefinery. Apply these as much as possible, which immediately contributes to short-term solutions. Dutch farmers and science are needed to produce sufficient protein, also globally.
Re 1. The RIVM overview of the origin of nitrogen deposition in the Netherlands includes the
North Sea as a source of ammonia. Approximately 2.2% of the nitrogen deposition in the Netherlands would come from there, and for the coastal area even more than 25%. However, the North Sea is a sink for ammonia, not a source, so no ammonia can come out of it at all. RIVM has now agreed to this, but does not want to include this in the calculations of deposition values. RIVM states that possible corrections or changes are administrative or political considerations that fall outside its domain. Politicians can consider here not to give the benefit of the doubt to RIVM, but to the construction industry and farmers.
This concerns differences between measured and calculated ammonia concentrations: more nitrogen is measured along the entire Dutch coast than the RIVM nitrogen model Aerius predicts. To correct for this, additional nitrogen was added to the model on the assumption that it must come from the North Sea. According to the RIVM, the omission of the North Sea as a source only has an effect on the relative contribution of the various sources, but not on the absolute deposition contribution (see appendix 3). There are doubts about this, where does the nitrogen of this correction come from? (see appendix 2) We suspect that the measurements in the coastal zone are systematically too high. Such measurement errors can be caused by, for example, wind, turbulence, salt spray, on-site drift, measurement technology or bird droppings.
As long as it has not been demonstrated where the extra nitrogen along the coast (which cannot come from the sea) comes from, we propose to omit the correction. Within the Aerius calculation model, a recalculation can be made in which the measurement correction is set to zero. This provides nitrogen space that can be used for construction in the Netherlands and that gives more time to tackle the other sources.
Ad 2. In the Netherlands, the Critical Deposition Values per habitat type are scientifically substantiated, but the policy has cast them in legal concrete, something that is not done abroad. Subsequently, a model that is too coarse is used to calculate exceedances, based on percentage contributions via emission deposition models. In doing so, too little account is taken of local circumstances and ecology.
Regulations in agriculture have become enormously complex in recent decades due to the accumulation of all kinds of, mostly technical, measures, which start to contradict each other with new regulations. As a result, the policy space has become very limited. First of all, we should move towards a targeted regulation that works with a limited number of goals.
Developing a nitrogen bank and nationally trading nitrogen rights does not take the local approach into account, does not save nature and is discouraged. We must take into account the fundamental rationale and scientific analysis of the nitrogen cycle (Appendix 1).
Ad 3. Nitrogen is a global problem. With the growing world population consuming more animal products, we will have to realize that only 9 kg of fertilizer per person per year will be available by 2050 to be able to produce the essential food component protein. In the Netherlands we
now use 24 kg and in Europe even 36 kg per year per person. By producing (animal) protein products with less nitrogen input and by reducing beef and pork consumption, we can in principle
produce enough protein for every citizen of the world. Part of the animal protein will have to be
replaced by protein from (preferably leguminous) plants. The Netherlands can play a pioneering role because we have a lot of knowledge and technology available and motivated farmers who want to be sustainable and earn a better income. Using less nitrogen for the same amount of protein means less nitrogen in the environment. In passing, we amply solve the deposition problem with tens of percentages.
Ad 4 Local customization will help nature much faster than national shifting with nitrogen quotas, halving the livestock or locking up construction. With that become
the longer term nitrogen problems only get worse. (See also appendix 2)
Re 5. There are other major ammonia sources in the Netherlands than just agriculture (eg Yara Sluiskil, Rockwool Roermond, Tata Steel IJmuiden, Olam Cocoa Zaandam, Starbucks coffee roaster and other food factories). Reduce emissions to zero at those sources. Map nature areas with nitrogen-sensitive vegetation better and rely less on general habitat characteristics.
Ad 6. Local approach to ammonium emissions. Ammonia measurements in and around a large
penguin colony show that the enormous amounts of ammonia that rain down right next to the colony have an enormous effect on plant growth, but that this effect no longer occurs outside a radius of 500-1000m (see appendix 1). Big effect, small distance, downwind. We can learn from this. Immediately go back to zero ammonia emissions within 500 m of N-sensitive Natura 2000 areas, within 1 km by 50% and beyond that use a differentiated approach, depending on agricultural objectives, among other things. And with the penguins, there is only such a big effect on one side of the colony. Also take into account whether the source is upwind (minor effect) or downwind (major effect) of the nature reserve.
Re 7. The nitrogen cycle is a complex network of chemical and biological processes (appendix 1) and is linked to other cycles such as the sulfur and carbon cycle. The even more significant emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from combustion engines are also accompanied by emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx). The NOx part of the nitrogen crisis therefore fits in with the general climate problem. Policy should then focus primarily on the climate. If the CO2
emissions from combustion engines are reduced, the N0X emissions are immediately included.
Ad 8. In nature, the various biological processes in the nitrogen cycle are mainly brought about
by bacteria, plants and fungi. Denitrification is part of this cycle in which nitrate (NO3 – ) is
converted to nitrogen gas (N2) by bacteria and fungi. The rewetting of natural areas stimulates denitrification but is rarely mentioned as a solution in reports, possibly also because of the formation of N2O , a potent greenhouse gas (314 times stronger than CO2). Make use of customization in area planning through rehydration, desiccation, rest, maintenance, eutrophication, grazing, layout, use, etc. as a solution for high nitrogen concentrations.
Ad 9. Nature in the Netherlands exists by the grace of the preconditions that humans create for it. Dutch nature policy is based on different ecological theories and approaches. Thus a vitalist/holistic movement, a cybernetic movement,
distinguish a dynamic flow and a chaos approach. The trick is to distill the optimal approach
for each nature reserve and to implement it consistently (Appendix 4 a ). Also use the customization from Ad 8, remove all cats and create dog-free areas.
Ad 10. Wonder leads to concern. The great nature of which we humans are a part is THE
source of wonder. We can be surprised because our inner world is in permanent interaction with our outer world (the other but also the environment). For all our senses, “breathing in and out”
does not happen at the same time. In other words, we exist due to permanent dynamics that, according to physicists, must have arisen from the Big Bang and the cosmic microwave background radiation that is now left (McFadden, 2021). We will have to learn to connect the nature of the physicists through quantum biology with the nature of philosophers such as Bruno Latour. The
latter connect art, science and politics around nature “within the human dimension”. That is both
the spiritual and physical nature that we all experience.
In this, money is not leading but following; the nitrogen cycle illustrates that: eating and
defecating from bacteria to whale but no longer fueled by fossil fuel fertilizers.
A difficult but politically urgent retreat along the limits of growth.
Re 11. There are also nature reserves in the Netherlands where biodiversity or the presence of nitrogen-sensitive plants is doing well. Map them out and investigate why the so-called nitrogen blanket does not seem to have any effect there. (See also Appendix 4a ).
Ad 12. A much better solution for the entire agricultural sector is feasible.
Define the agricultural targets for the reduction of CO2 and nitrogen emissions, and for preserving biodiversity and increasing field yields (land-based production). Research for various areas such as intensive agriculture, livestock farming, circular agriculture, regenerative agriculture, tailor-made N reduction, etc. which measures and techniques lead to the goals and adjust the policy and operational management in such a way that the goals are achieved with minimal ammonia emissions (see also appendix 5). Examples of measures that contribute to sustainability and a better income for the farmer are:
• Increase in essential amino acids in pigs and chickens, • More resistant protein in cattle feed, • Use beet tops as animal feed, • Bio-refining of grass and other plant leaves, • Stripping ammonia from manure, • Acidification of manure, • Separate collection of pee and shit
Recommendation: It is proposed to compare the recent proposals of Erisman & Strootman, van Natuurmonumenten, Natuur & Milieu, LTO Nederland, VNO-NCW, MKB-Nederland and Bouwend Nederland and the recommendations mentioned above, and from this together an optimal approach. to set. Only through an integral and inclusive approach can we do justice to various aspects of the nitrogen problem, healthy nature, sufficient food for everyone and a varied landscape.
Appendix 1: The nitrogen problem (Prof Dr Han Lindeboom)
Nitrogen is essential for all life on Earth. Without organic nitrogen compounds there would be no proteins and DNA and neither would we. Covid viruses also contain these
molecules. NH3 is essential for making those connections. Our air consists for approximately 20% of oxygen and 80% of harmless nitrogen gas N2. But we can’t do anything with that. Bacteria in clover or cyanobacteria in water, for example, remove N2 from the air and make usable organic nitrogen compounds from it. That is the beginning of the entire food chain. There is also an exit. There are bacteria that turn organic nitrogen compounds and in particular nitrate (NO3 -) into N2 again . The circle is complete and in a balanced ecosystem the process keeps itself fairly balanced. Now humans have intervened and make NH3 from N2 with the help of a lot of energy. This is used as fertilizer all over the world. But we haven’t kept up the exit. In anaerobic water purification plants, the NOx is turned into N2 again , but elsewhere it goes into the ecosystem and if it becomes too much nitrogen-sensitive plants no longer want to grow and we get acidification. Art is to stay as close as possible to the great balance.
Central to the problem in the Netherlands is the emission of ammonia from agriculture and nitrogen oxides from combustion engines. These nitrogen compounds precipitate again in dry and wet deposition. Conversions take place in the water and the soil in which gaseous N2 can also be formed.
In the picture above we see the emission of the nitrogen compounds formed by human activities and the burden on the rest of the earth by rain and dry deposition,
including sensitive natural areas.
Between 1975 and 1978 I (HL) myself did research for 3 years on the nitrogen cycle in a penguin colony on Marion Island, south of South Africa, where all processes can be studied
in a highly concentrated form. We are dealing here with one gigantic source of ammonia without the addition of nitrogen from other sources. Birds are the nitrogen source on the island and there are only two large penguin colonies left downwind. Other sources are more than 1000km away. Ideal for detailed research into the effects of point sources of ammonia.
In the penguin colony, large amounts of ammonia are released into the air, some of which quickly precipitate around the colony. Rich grass growth occurs here up to a distance of 1 km from the colony. Plants adapt by making additional nitrogen converting enzymes. And other animals also like this nitrogen-rich environment. Many Greater Fulmars breed there. See the following figures for an overview.
In this colony of approximately 350,000 Macaroni penguins and 150,000 King Penguins, 14 tons of
faeces are produced per day during the breeding season. From this, 430 kg of NH3 is released into the
air every day, of which about 60 kg rain down again right next to the colony. This has led to rich grass growth
which in turn has formed a 6 m thick layer of peat on the north side (leeward side) of the
colony. This extends to about 500 m from the colony and at 1 km from the colony the vegetation is almost the same as elsewhere on the island. This is an indication of how far these large NH3 sources have a significant impact on their environment. For a recent overview see this satellite photo. The lesson from such a point source is: big effect, small distance, downwind.
I took the following from a publication by Mr Bobbink:
Effects of N-deposition on the biodiversity of nature reserves
Nitrogen deposition: silent killer for nature
Dr. Roland Bobbink (senior researcher and former director of the B-WARE Research Center in Nijmegen, firstname.lastname@example.org) bottom number 6 | Dec 2019
FIGURE 1. PICTURE OF SOUTH LIMBURG LIME GRASSLAND VEGETATION AFTER FOUR YEARS IRRIGATION WITH NITROGEN (RIGHT), AND OF THE VEGETATION TREATED WITH CLEAN RAINWATER (PHOTO: R. BOBBINK, 1986).
Strikingly, these photos look exactly like the landscape around the penguin colonies I’ve studied. Close to the colony (lots of NH3 deposition) like the picture on the right with only grass, at distances of more than 1 km like the picture on the left with rich vegetation.
The left image was created including the nitrogen deposition calculated by RIVM, the right image was created by adding an extra point source. This again shows that point sources of ammonium are much more important for nature than diffuse sources.
It is also good to realize that bacteria are crucial players in the nitrogen cycle.
The picture above shows the important role of bacteria at five places in the nitrogen cycle in the soil: nitrogen fixation, ammonification, nitrification, denitrification and degradation of organic compounds.
When tackling the problem in nature reserves, it is essential to take this into account. From Wikipedia: “In nature, nitrogen fixation by organisms only occurs if there is no other option. Nitrogen fixation costs more energy than reusing existing nitrogen compounds. This is the reason that there is naturally a shortage of fixed nitrogen in nature (i.e. without human intervention). There are carnivorous plants that extract their nitrogen and other nutrients directly from animals. Precisely because nature is often designed for little nitrogen, extra nitrogen can easily cause problems. Meanwhile, there is a problem with too much nitrogen in about sixty percent of the world’s nature reserves (and in three quarters of the Natura 2000 areas in the Netherlands)”.
Trends over time
There has already been a significant reduction in nitrogen emissions over the past 30 years, but
the decline has not continued in the last 10 years. Before 1990 there were major problems with acidification of the soil with sulfur and nitrogen compounds, for example for the forests. The sulfur problem on land was quickly resolved, while nitrogen emissions fell from 470 to 180 million kg N
between 1990 and 2015. At the same time, ammonia emissions from agriculture fell from 340 to 115 kton NH3.
Spatial distribution of NO2 and NH3
The figure below from Erisman, De Vries ea (2021) shows the column concentrations for NO2
and NH3 in the Netherlands. The highest concentrations for NO2 are measured in the southern part of the Netherlands, particularly in the industrial areas around Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp, western North Brabant and northern Limburg. The highest concentrations of NH3 are measured in the eastern half of the country and particularly in key agricultural areas.
The low NH3 concentrations in the entire coastal zone are striking. This is also an important indication that the RIVM model calculations, in which a measurement correction is applied in the coastal zone, is incorrect. See Appendix 2.
The nitrogen problem in the Netherlands from the perspective of the atmosphere
Contribution of atmosphere expert Michiel van Wheele
Nitrogen oxides (NOx) and ammonia (NH3) must be considered separately. The life cycle in the air, as determined by physical and chemical processes in the atmosphere, differ for both components. The impacts, the policy tasks, the most relevant policy and the consequences of previous policy also differ. In the total nitrogen deposition (3rd paragraph
below) the two substances come together.
Ammonia emissions are now reasonably the same from year to year in the Netherlands. Especially in the 1990s there was a sharp decrease in emissions. The emissions from agriculture and horticulture are leading for the emission (trends) of NH3 in the Netherlands. These emissions are fairly well known
(see figures on page above)
In the case of ammonia, the immediate environment is important for determining the nitrogen deposition. This is due to
the short lifespan of NH3 in the air. Modeling and measurements focus on the first kilometer(s) from a barn or a fertilized piece of land. Satellite measurements confirm the limited scope of ammonia emissions.
The formation of particulate matter from ammonia (aerosols with an ammonium component) is very rapid due to the short lifespan. These small ammonium particles contribute to nitrogen deposition on a regional to national scale. The lifetime of these aerosols is hours to days. The aerosols are carried by the wind, react with other components, and contribute to the regional/national particulate matter blanket over the Netherlands. The fine dust blanket is most prominent at living level in winter (winter smog) when there is little wind. Particulate matter is an international problem, most particulate matter in the Netherlands comes from abroad on average, except when there is little wind. In the Netherlands the wind is often moderate to strong. The particulate matter that comes in from elsewhere is important, but in quantity less than the particulate matter that is exported by the Netherlands. Particulate matter often blows abroad and contributes (diluted) to nitrogen deposition, but not when there is little wind. Then the deposition in the Netherlands takes place locally to regionally.
Inhaling particulate matter is harmful to health. The aim of the clean air agreement is to limit the amount of particulate matter in the Netherlands. For example, based on the weather forecast, a heating alert is issued with the aim of limiting the impact of wood burning on health, especially in winter weather with little wind. For example, there are more air quality measures against particulate matter. Reducing NH3 emissions is part of this because less aerosols with ammonium are formed in the air as a result. In this way, the policy aimed at better air quality also leads to less nitrogen deposition.
Emissions of nitrogen oxides are decreasing in the Netherlands, but they are still high relative to most neighboring countries. These emissions are also quite well known (see Figure)
Satellite measurements show that the Netherlands is one of the most polluted areas in the world for nitrogen oxides. Due to the longer lifetime of nitrogen oxides and the formation of ozone in the atmosphere by NOx, modeling focuses on the national / European scale. The Netherlands exports on average more nitrogen oxides than it imports. In cities, especially along busy streets, peak values are also measured.
Nitrogen oxides cause summer smog (ozone and particulate matter), a regional and sometimes
national problem. Most ozone is created with an average amount of nitrogen oxides. Counter-
intuitively, the amount of ozone on a hot summer day is higher outside the city than in the city.
In the near future, we may first have to deal with more smog in the cities in the Netherlands before the air quality improves.
NOx emissions in the Netherlands will continue to decrease as a result of the energy policy pursued. This is because nitrogen oxides are mainly released during the combustion of oil, gas and coal (and biomass). The energy policy will determine the rate of decrease in NOx emissions, supplemented with targeted measures for air quality or nitrogen deposition (eg 100 km per hour on the highways). Nitrogen oxides are converted to nitric acid on a timescale of hours and especially nitric acid droplets contribute significantly to nitrogen deposition on a regional scale
It is important for both the deposition and the amount of ozone what the countries around us do to limit NOx emissions. Here too, the speed of the energy transition will largely determine this in the coming years.
Ammonia and nitrogen oxides come together during deposition from the atmosphere. Dry
deposition is somewhat subordinate to wet deposition (”acid rain”).
Deposition numbers have much more uncertainty than emission numbers. Modeling is difficult
and deposition is dependent on many factors including day-to-day weather. The deposition in smaller areas such as the Natura 2000 areas is even more uncertain than the national average deposition. Measurements of deposition are also difficult and not easy to make representative of the environment. Better models and measurement techniques are needed to determine the often highly variable nitrogen deposition from place to place.
However, as a result of 50 to 60 years of intensive agriculture with a lot of (artificial) fertilizer
and a lot of combustion of fossil fuels for electricity generation, industry, mobility, etc., the nitrogen load in the soil and surface water is high everywhere in the Netherlands and it is therefore said that the Netherlands ”locked” is in view of the (European) nature objectives. The (proverbial) bucket is full and it is no longer easy to empty in most of the Netherlands. We have polluted our own nest.
As a result, the uncertainties in deposition from place to place and in time are relatively unimportant compared to the already present sources for the nitrogen load of soil and water. Decades of nitrogen deposition is not easy to remove from the nitrogen cycle. Soil restoration in nature reserves such as Natura 2000 will proceed slowly, even if the tap (the deposition) is turned slightly closer due to emission reductions in the vicinity or further away. It is difficult to substantiate a 1-to-1 relationship between less nitrogen load in Natura 2000 areas and fewer emissions in the environment.
Question marks about the effects of nitrogen deposition on nature. (Han Lindeboom)
There are also more doubts about the way in which the effects of abundant nitrogen emissions on nature are interpreted. These subsequently lead to a nitrogen policy that may be too strict. Although it is absolutely clear that nitrogen emissions are too high and should be reduced, the question is whether a generic approach will lead to an optimal result. What is striking is that in some areas nitrogen-sensitive plants are indeed doing poorly, but in other areas those plants are doing well despite the modeled nitrogen blanket over the Netherlands.
There is a big difference between dry and wet deposition of nitrogen compounds. That leads to concentration areas where the (effects of) depositions per m2 can be much greater.
When NH3 is released from a point source at a time of rain (wet deposition), most of it will precipitate in an area no further than 1 km from the source. In the Netherlands this is approximately 9% of the emissions. This has the greatest effect in this area. The rest of the NH3 spreads over a much larger area in dry periods. In the case of dry deposition, it depends much more on the relief, for example whether there are trees or not and then in the forest edge
where the air currents are quickly braked, the greatest effects occur. This could be taken more into account when tackling the N-problem.
In the natural nitrogen cycle, denitrification is the final conversion of bound nitrogen to gaseous N2. That completes the cycle. Because humans now add large amounts of bound nitrogen to
this cycle, an imbalance has arisen. However, this does not alter the fact that denitrification can also play an important role in the currently affected areas, whereby the water management can also have a positive influence on this. This is rarely mentioned in reports on the nitrogen problem.
Much is being said and written about all kinds of nature reserves where nitrogen-sensitive plants would no longer be found, but it might also be good to find out in which nature areas those plants still occur. There is an example on Texel of an area where the Critical Deposition Values are exceeded but where sundew and a number of other nitrogen-sensitive plants are still present in a number of places.
to prevent. Map out all areas where this is the case better and apply more customization in nature policy and management. (See also appendix 4).
Deposition from agriculture, the real problem for nature Of the
approximately 110,000 tons of NH3 emitted from agriculture, we find 40,000 tons as deposition.
About half of this is ammonia from our own agriculture and the other half from NOx and ammonia from abroad. This is not surprising when we consider that nitrogen mainly comes down during
rain. It rains in the Netherlands for about 700 hours a year, a mere 9% of the time. We can read from the European figures that approximately 100% of the NH3 emitted can be found as deposition. In a small country on the coast with a lot of westerly winds, we have to conclude that about 80% of our own emissions blow away to the rest of Europe and can cause problems there. With 450 M ha, the territory of Europe is about 110 times larger than that of the Netherlands. The complete deposition of the 3 million tons of N leads to 6.6 kg NH3/ha deposition, while in the Netherlands 40,000 tons of deposition results in 10 kg/ha, of which approximately 5 kg/ha comes from Dutch agriculture. If all 110,000 tons of NH3 emitted would come back, this would amount to 27 kg/ha. We can conclude that the problems in Europe are not much smaller than those in the Netherlands. This is also the result of a report on the N and P footprint in Europe.
Agriculture and nitrogen removal (water treatment)
Dutch agriculture now supplies just under 600,000 tons of nitrogen per year in the form of animal feed raw materials, fertilizer and deposition, to produce about 120,000 tons of nitrogen in human food. So 480 000 tons are lost in the form of ammonia, N2O, N2
emissions to the air and leaching of nitrate into groundwater. The N2 is created after natural or process-controlled (wastewater installations) nitrification and denitrification of ammonia that
is released again from protein that ends up undigested in the manure and
from protein from agricultural waste that remains in the field after harvesting. This N2 has no negative effect, because 80% of the air we breathe is N2. However, with this nitrification/ denitrification, all the energy required to make fertilizer from the air is lost and if you could use protein in agricultural residual flows useful in animal or human food and you can prevent protein from ending up in the manure undigested, then you also prevent the losses that are currently associated with the cultivation of those proteins and thus reduce emissions.
Appendix 2: Does incorrect correction in RIVM nitrogen model give scope to Construction and Farmers?
Prof. Dr. Han Lindeboom.
The RIVM nitrogen model contains an unexpected inaccuracy.
The overview of the origin of the Dutch nitrogen deposition from 2019 includes a substantial contribution such as ammonia from the sea.
The RIVM chart with ammonia from the sea.
The graph above about the origin of nitrogen deposition (NH3 and NOx) shows that more than 2% comes from the North Sea in the form of ammonia, which is even more than the total from Dutch industry. But there is no ammonia from the North Sea.
Reading the RIVM report on ammonia deposition in the dunes along the North Sea and Wadden Sea coast (H. Noordijk ea, 2014) shows that there is a difference between the measured and the calculated ammonia value, more is measured than calculated. To fill this gap, an amount of ammonia was added to the model so that the model and measurements match. Subsequently, an attempt is made in the said report to prove that this amount of ammonia comes from the North Sea. But various calculations of concentration gradients and fluxes from the North Sea show that this is not the case. There is little or no ammonia from the North Sea, that is not possible at all, pH and ammonium concentrations and gradients are not suitable for this.
The ammonia added in the model has major consequences for the nitrogen deposition, especially in
the coastal areas. For the nature reserves on Texel, this adds 237 moles of nitrogen per hectare, ie 25%
of the total.
This was discussed with RIVM at the beginning of February 2020. The RIVM subsequently indicated that
the term ammonia from the North Sea was incorrect and first changed it to ammonia from the North Sea.
Later on, ‘measurement correction’ was made of this (see also appendix 3). RIVM has since agreed that there can never be that much ammonia from the sea and that there must therefore be another reason for
the difference between calculated and measured values on the coast.
According to the RIVM, the measurements are correct, but the concentrations are indeed very low. RIVM
emphasizes that the measurements are leading for them and that the modeling supports the measurements.
But if this ammonia from the sea does not exist and no other source can be identified, there is a serious
overestimation of the nitrogen deposition in the RIVM model. For the Dutch coast this means a difference of 25-29%. For the whole of the Netherlands, the total nitrogen deposition is then more than 2% lower than
stated. That the nitrogen emissions go down
must is certain. But if the correction in the RIVM model is omitted, that gives us, too
legal, more time to look for solutions. And if we then reduce CO2 emissions to save the climate, the nitrogen emissions will automatically follow.
In the booklet ‘Nitrogen – the creeping effects on nature and health’ by Erisman and De Vries (2021), page 30 shows a figure showing how much ammonia comes from the sea per sub-area, and page 42 shows that new ammonia sources have been discovered. including algae off the coast. But algae absorb ammonia and are not a source themselves. Both entries are incorrect and the authors have now indicated that they forgot to remove this from the booklet during the layout.
RIVM therefore assumes that the measurements are correct and that this justifies a positive measurement correction along the entire coast. (The estimated margin of error in the national total is approximately 30% for NH3 and 20% for NOx. Locally, the deviations can be significantly higher.)
But if the measurements and their interpretation are not correct, a different approach is justified.
It appears that the RIVM model is not validated on depositions, but only on concentrations in the
air (LML monitoring network and MAN monitoring network with approximately 80 measurement sites). For your information, an example of a validation with the measurements on the X-axis and the model results on the Y-axis (graph on the left).
A linear fit through the points has been calculated. But the points rather form an S-curve, which is manually plotted (estimated, not calculated) in the graph on the right. In addition, seem
At the bottom left of the graphs, there is a row of points that seem to follow their own line (red dotted
line). It is clear that in the left part of the figure in particular, the measurements are considerably higher than the model calculations.
This could mean that a different correction would have to be applied for this range of values. Particularly in the entire coastal zone, the measured values are relatively low and the question is whether the dotted line does not represent the situation in the coastal zone better than the solid lines.
The RIVM has indicated that they have now also calculated more with an S-curve instead of
the linear fit. This should lead to lower deposition values in the low concentration area, but the figures used for Texel have so far not shown anything about this.
The measurements probably reflect the concentrations of NH3 in the air reasonably well, but this can be questioned in the entire coastal area, the measurements are higher than the model values.
The RIVM corrects for this by means of a measurement correction, but this may be a measurement artefact which means that the measurements in the coastal zone are systematically too high. The artifact may have been caused by wind, turbulence, salt spray or spraying on site or by contamination, for example by birds.
The measurements are performed with so-called Gradko passive samplers. In 2018, RIVM published a report on the quality of this measurement method (RIVM Report 2018-
0105) where in audience summary it reads: [quote]“without calibration, the readings of the Gradko samplers are systematically too high, especially in the low concentration range. After calibration, this systematic deviation is no longer present. The calibration procedure also corrects for
meteorological influences which reduces the noise in the measurements. The accuracy of the calibrated Gradko measurements can then be compared with that of various other cheap measuring
techniques” [end of quote]. But it is questionable whether one has calibrated at all measuring points and whether this is also regularly recalibrated. Particularly in coastal areas with relatively low concentrations, this could have an effect on the difference between measured and modeled values.
The local use of the samplers also raises questions
The accompanying photos show a measuring point at the Zwanenwater near Callantsoog (above) and at Paal 9 on Texel (below). In the tubes with red and yellow caps, the ammonia in the air flowing past and diffusing inwards is collected for a month in a strong acid.
The tubes are replaced monthly. Nitrate is measured in the tube in the top photo.
What was striking was that this measuring point in the Zwanenwater is within 150m of a cormorant colony. With the prevailing wind, the ammonia released during the breakdown of uric acid can certainly influence the measurements (see also the graph on the penguin colony in appendix 1). On Texel, the measuring point is located in a gull colony where the measuring pole is regularly passed by the gulls
covered with faeces. This could be an explanation for the high measurements and justifies an approach in which not the model values but the measured values should be (further) corrected.
The AERIUS calculator (b) appears to be a national accounting approach and only partly a process model. This approach is suitable for spreading (partly non-existent) NH3 and NOx over the Netherlands, but not for calculating the N depositions in sensitive nature areas.
Critical Deposition Values (KDWs) have been calculated for various Natura 2000 habitat types. In many areas those are exceeded with current calculations, with the legal framework
forcing that the resources may not expand and in many cases must even be reduced. There are doubts about these calculations and about the effectiveness of a national approach. It also does no harm for the various sub-areas to see how and from which source the KDWs are exceeded. On Texel, this is done, among other things, by nitrogen from the sea. While the RIVM now admits that such amounts of ammonia can never come out of the sea. If that ammonia source really does not exist, the KDWs will not or hardly be exceeded on Texel and questions can be raised about the demand from the Province to the Texel agricultural sector to reduce their emissions by 50% within 4 years.
Because the KDWs and the (potential) exceedance thereof are nationally in legal concrete a critical integral analysis of this problem is recommended.
Appendix 3: Memo from RIVM on ammonia from the sea (see especially the last paragraph on page 2).
The last paragraph raises questions, especially now that there is no ammonia from the sea. It is logical that if one source disappears, the percentages of the other sources increase and the absolute contribution of the other sources remains the same. But the total amount of nitrogen ‘available’ for deposition is reduced by the amount of the non-existent source.
And so the deposition is lower and the KDW is exceeded less quickly.
Appendix 4a: How to deal with nature in the Netherlands, partly in relation to the nitrogen problem.
Han Lindeboom, Luit Buurma, Carla Soesbergen-Kuipers
Dutch nature is (usually) not natural and requires constant maintenance. In the past 50 years, there has been a shift from ecological nature (the ecosystem, plants and animals at the center) to economic nature (serving the recreational people and money has to be earned with it).
The well-being of that nature has also been translated into legally verifiable
terms such as conservation objectives, which are then settled without taking into account the complex interplay of all controlling factors and the response of the ecosystem as a whole. Too much nitrogen is one of those factors, but nitrogen is currently being blamed for almost all undesirable developments. This has now even resulted in a minister for Nature and Nitrogen being appointed and the government set aside billions of euros for a solution to the problem.
Nitrogen emissions must of course be reduced, but an important part of the problem also lies in the Dutch approach to nature management and conservation, the pursuit of unachievable or unrealistic conservation goals and the constant overhaul of natural areas in order to achieve ‘something desirable’. Very often this goes wrong and we don’t get top nature but flop nature.
In this essay the different visions on nature and nature conservation are listed and building blocks are presented for a local optimization of nature management in the Netherlands.
If combined with a local optimization of agriculture, this could lead to a varied landscape with space for food production, recreation and natural nature. This requires new visions of Dutch landscape design and how local customization can lead to locally desired nature.
Nature visions and nature conservation.
Dividing lines in thinking about nature policy in the Netherlands.
In her 2002 dissertation entitled “Didividing Lines in Thinking about Nature Policy in the Netherlands, a Genealogy of Four Ecological Theories ” Mechtild de Jong describes the different views that have arisen over time about nature management.
These are (taken from an article by Marieke Aarden in de Volkskrant in 2002):
• The vitalist/ holistic movement in which the plant and animal communities are units and that
there are forces that hold these plants and animals together. The result is an ecosystem that starts young, develops and then reaches its maximum diversity in the absence of human intervention. Then the cycle starts again with the same end result, the natural balance.
• The cybernetic current: biodiversity is achieved through careful management, provided that all knowledge about the functioning of an ecosystem is known.
• The dynamic direction: nature cannot be in balance, because change and
disturbance is normal. Plants and animals disappear and others take their place. The model is closely related to Jan Tinbergen’s economic model. The adherents of this direction are mainly concerned about the pollution of air, water and soil.
• The chaos followers: they had the most difficulty explaining diversity.
For them, that was unpredictable and uncontrollable. Little intervention by humans was
therefore the motto.
In her dissertation, de Jong describes the various supporters of these visions and how they have
dealt with them. For example, it appears that different ministries adhered/adhere to different visions, and that there has never been an unambiguous approach to nature management.
In the environmental policy of Rijkswaterstaat, for example, the dynamic theory can be recognized
as the basis for the policy, while the cybernetic current can be found in the former VROM and in the assignment of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality to provinces (De Jong, 2002). But with the latter, this is often done without the necessary knowledge on the right scale. With the outcome of De Jong’s dissertation, nothing has ever really been done to achieve better nature management.
Now the question is whether these visions are as separate from each other as is suggested
with this classification. Isn’t a holistic view of a dynamic system, carefully managed, taking into account chaotic behavior and addressed locally, the best way of managing nature in a country where almost all nature has already been created by humans? This calls for an integrative approach with local customization in various nature reserves and regions.
And if it is clear that certain plants or communities cannot or hardly come back, you could also
take that with you locally.
Victor Westhoff is one of the initiators of nature management in the Netherlands and in his dissertation entitled “Victor Westhoff, Nature conservation as a refuge” Frank Saris describes the important role Westhoff played. In addition, Westhoff has a classification of our
landscapes created on the basis of the extent to which humans exert influence on them. It concerns the following categories: • Natural landscapes, • More or less natural landscapes,
• Semi-natural landscapes, •
And we may need to add to that in the present tense:
• Production landscapes with very intensive agriculture
• Production landscapes with organic nature-inclusive agriculture
• Areas with urbanization challenge (Fig 5.14 in Erisman and Strootman, 2021) • Areas with meadow bird data (Fig 5.14 in Erisman and Strootman, 2021)
• Areas with energy targets (wind and sun).
Westhoff indicated that the biotic communities are bound by special constellations of environmental factors, of which the human influence is one, in addition to the influence of climate, soil, relief and groundwater. And by environmental requirements Westhoff means not only a specific, explicitly measurable factor influencing the growth of the plant, such as humidity, acidity or nitrate richness, but also the strength of a gradient situation on site, i.e. the intensity with which two contrasting environmental factors can occur in a location. exchange (Saris, 2018). For nature management, integrative customization is also necessary, taking into account all the aforementioned influences locally.
Other approaches to nature policy can be derived from a discussion about Wolf and Mouflon by Arjen Buijs (WUR) in which a distinction is made between:
• Anthropocentric view of people at the center • Biocentric vision puts the animal first
• Ecocentric vision of the ecosystem at the center
The terms conservative, progressive and fundamental can also still be useful here. Conservatively everything is preserved as much as possible, progressive is intervention to go to an agreed situation and fundamental is back to great-grandmother’s time.
What is going wrong with nature management in the Netherlands?
From the book by Rob Bijlsma (2021) Churches of Gold, Dominees of wood. About the
evolution of Dutch nature conservation.
Over the past 50 years, nature conservation in the Netherlands has changed from “’Nature in
the Netherlands must be subsidized’. Without significant investments in money and manpower nothing will remain (Koos van Zomeren, 1980)” to “…nature, which was an achievement of God, turns into an achievement of subsidy-receiving organizations such as SBB and Natuurmonumenten. Natural areas are managed with a view to production figures (Koos van Zomeren, 2011)”.
“The latter means: destroying one nature – namely the wrong one – in favor of another nature – namely the good. With the disturbing detail: there is no right or wrong nature. That can be different. Nature
does not need us, except for the legal protections that we must provide and maintain. Livestock will find out for themselves.” To achieve this, Rob Bijlsma makes a number of proposals (pages 307-309). Here’s
an edited selection from it:
• Reduce the professional management organizations especially in terms of number of managers and office workers. More hands in the field.
• Refuse grants with conditions attached.
• Refuse to cooperate with government nonsense.
• Go into the field, do research and publish (in open domains). • Supervise the field and fine violators.
• Close at least half of all areas to the public (access only for supervisors and researchers).
• Remove all signs except No Trespassing (art 461) for closed areas.
• Management interventions in nature reserves are in principle out of the question.
• Possible management only if based on science and performed (manually) by own
• Any proposed intervention in natural areas must be preceded by a thorough analysis of what
it destroys (at all trophic levels)
• In case of mismanagement, serious sanctions will follow for the responsible managers and
• Only allow scientists and skeptics into member councils.
• Teach visitors that nature reserves are there for other animals, plants and fungi.
This means that people are not allowed to come to many places. They think this restriction is
completely justified, because they understand what nature reserves are intended for.
• Hiring contractors with machines is a thing of the past, as is hiring ecological consultancies.
• The few staff go into the field for research and supervision, increasing gradually the knowledge and complexity of the living world.
• Species management disappears in favor of research into and protection of ecosystems. This puts an end to the countless measures proposed to save species X or Y at the expense of other organisms and existing ecosystems.
• This different way of dealing with nature also frees us from the bureaucracy that has reduced livestock to the dichotomy: worthy of protection or not (the modern variant of the old principle: useful or harmful).
• Room is created for spontaneous developments, regardless of any value judgement. We let ourselves be surprised.
• Not self-interest but general interest. Not destruction, but surprise. Nature will be eternally grateful to you
In their book “Out of balance, working on nature conservation in the Netherlands” (2021), Marc van den Tweel, former general director of Natuurmonumenten, and Bjorn van den
Boom argue that there is an imbalance in nature management in the Netherlands and that
we need to move towards a more holistic landscape approach. should. The idea that
agriculture and nature are opposites does not contribute to the solution, but is the cause of the problem. The focus on the largest possible monocultures with the highest possible yield leads to agricultural systems that lose their resilience, but also to negative effects on the landscape and the surrounding nature. They argue in favor of considering our landscape more from an ecological continuum, with close-by nature reserves focusing on nature-inclusive agriculture and environmental conditions that contribute to robust and resilient nature. And further away, more space for economic use and earning capacity.
In recent decades, the balance has increasingly tilted towards the economic use of space.
They also quote Martin Drenthen, who in his essay Hek describes that nature lovers can
relate to nature and landscape on the basis of three fundamentally different value patterns.
• A functional image of nature (nature is ours, as an exploitation source, to use and exploit) from which follows an anthropocentric ethics. Core values are fertility and valuable raw materials. It is an image of nature that is often encountered, for example, among fishermen and farmers.
• An Arcadian image of nature (man and nature live together in harmony or must nevertheless strive for it, and man has a responsibility for the management of that nature) from which follows a stewardship ethic. Core values are vulnerability and responsibility. This also fits with the views on nature management as advocated by Victor Westhoff.
• A wilderness-nature image, (nature as an autonomous force entitled to non-
intervention) from which a wilderness ethic follows. Core values are autonomy, independence and succession. It is an image of nature that fits the views of Frans Vera, known for the Oostvaardersplassen.
When people discuss nature management with each other, it turns out that there are actually different reference images and value frameworks. In order to escape endless
discussions and a drifting nature policy, we must conduct the debate about the choices that land managers make more based on the images and values underlying the points of view.
And also from Van den Tweel and Van den Boom. Ultimately, nature management is
simple: the environmental conditions of an area must be in order. Areas must be of sufficient size. Sufficient groundwater of good quality must be available in the area, with no influx of pesticides and limited nitrogen deposition. Within these preconditions, the site manager takes care of the biotope management. Sometimes by grazing an area, sometimes by
mowing, sometimes by removing tree stock or restoring certain characteristics. And as much as possible by leaving an area alone so that natural processes can take their course. Our entire landscape – and therefore our entire society – will have to make a transition to a more nature-inclusive future.
Thomas Oudman recently wrote an article in the Correspondent under the title “The Netherlands protects nature from destruction”. He argues that nature policy separates man and nature; that nature and agriculture go well together, but are now approached too separately; the power of the agricultural industry is too great; a broad basis for nature must be created, and that people must be addressed as citizens rather than consumers.
See: https://decorrespondent.nl/13062/nederland-beschermt-de-natuur-kapot/1046519341560- 091cbe6c
Given the enormous complexity in which the Netherlands finds itself as a small, cramped country
where little real nature exists anymore, and where there are only more wishes for infrastructure and
In order to build houses, it is important that we arrive at a new political approach and vision that is purposeful and based on a combination of visions that have been developed about Dutch nature over
the past 100 years.
If we focus on the location/ region where nature/ biodiversity, landscape elements and farmers, etc. are present, and we look together locally at the interests of those specific location(s), we will move towards
a truly new vision and also new land use policy. In fact, an integral vision is being developed, being a
mix of the above visions, with which nature at a local/ regional level is truly approached with customization.
Nature and biodiversity are also becoming more central. Isn’t that what we all want? Nature in
the Netherlands really needs customization in order to be able to continue to talk about ‘nature
in the Netherlands’ at all in the future. For that purpose, it is best that we start thinking more ‘out of the box’ or in a new way. If we consider nature inclusiveness really important, we will also have to develop an integrative approach to Dutch nature, taking into account healthy nature, sufficient food for everyone, a varied landscape, and the interests of all those involved, including the agricultural sector.
The problem areas in the Netherlands
The following maps provide an overview of all Natura 2000 areas in the Netherlands, the exceedance of the Critical Deposition Values in the Natura 2000 areas and an example of an area- oriented approach on the square km.
Figure 1: Overview map of all Natura 2000 areas in the Netherlands
Figure 3. Km sections for optimization approach to agriculture, in combination with policy for excellent natural areas.
Source: page 108 from Erisman & Strootman. (2021).
The figure shows the km-sections optimization
10_66_75 based on deposition contribution. 10% generic
reduction of nitrogen emissions. 66% reduction of nitrogen emissions in 2655 km of sections (open squares) so that the
KDW contribution to agriculture in 75% of the Natura 2000
areas goes to 0.
In green are the sensitive Natura 2000 areas indicated.
The red ellipses have been added by H. Lindeboom as possible examples of excellent natural areas where
ammonia emissions within the ellipse are reduced to zero as much as possible on the windward side. (NB the
ellipses are indicated arbitrarily in the green areas, this needs to be substantiated later).
Figure 2. Exceedance of Critical Deposition
Values in Natura 2000 areas from all nitrogen sources in 2018 (mol/ha/year).
From: Erisman & Strootman. (2021). To a relaxed Netherlands
Notable areas in this regard are:
• • • • •
The dunes along the entire
Weerribben & De Wieden
Heart of the Northern Netherlands
The Peel and surroundings
Erisman’s approach indicates the square kilometers within which the additional approach to
local ammonia emissions has the greatest return for nature (this applies to scenario 10_66_75, other scenarios are also possible). We propose to do something similar for nature. Thus, within the existing sensitive areas, km should also be installed that indicate in which areas optimal management (not only nitrogen, but also rehydration/desiccation, grazing, accessibility, etc.) with a fairly high degree of certainty leads to the desired flora and fauna composition and so biodiversity will lead.
predominant Wind direction
Minimum NH3 emissions
For nitrogen-sensitive Natura 2000 areas, it is also important to take into account an upwind or downwind location relative to NH3 point sources. In particular, the point sources on the windward side must then be reduced (See the drawing)
Towards a local, integrated area-oriented nature approach in the Netherlands.
It is proposed to list the facts per problem area as shown in Figure 2 by means of a survey in which all the necessary information has been brought together.
• Site name, size, habitat characteristics, conservation goals
• Are the conservation goals achieved, if not why not
• What are the typical species of plants and animals for the area • What are the main uses in the area
• Is the emphasis for the area on ecological or economic nature
Then the following nature-related aspects are rated with a yes or no
• Is half of the area closed to the public yes no
• Are feral cats removed yes no
• Do dogs always have to be on a (short) lead, except in small off-leash areas yes no • Are there no mountain bike trails through the area (only along the edge) yes no
• Is there no hunting in at least 50% of the area yes no
• Is there the possibility for a complete food web (incl. top predators) yes no
• Is the water level optimally regulated for nature yes no
• Is there sufficient enforcement • Is
the area adequately grazed where necessary • Are the agreed management measures sufficiently observed ?
And also a number of environment-related aspects that are or can be adapted
• Has the surrounding agriculture been adapted (increasing biodiversity) yes no • No blowing pesticides used within 1 km of the area yes no
• No upwind point sources of ammonia within 1 km of the area yes no
• Do the physical and chemical soil characteristics meet the preconditions
of the relevant habitat types
From this, the number of yes’s is counted.
And follows an approach with gold (and possibly green stars)
Gold stars for ecological nature and green stars for economic nature.
With 14 yes’s an area gets 5 gold stars and with less than 4 yes’s 1 star, etc.
Yes No Yes No Yes No
Depending on changes in policy, an area may receive more or fewer stars.
Consideration could also be given to using green stars to indicate the economic value of the area for other users, eg recreation.
Use money for nitrogen approach only for the 4 and 5 gold star areas.
The legal regulations are no longer the norm, but the actual quality of nature, which is then clearly defined per area. Customization per area and not national, with the current climate change unattainable, conservation goals or the like.
The above is not yet complete and should be further elaborated later.
We can try to apply this to a number of sub-areas, for example on Texel (National Park and Waalenburg) and in and around the Peel. In principle, areas without formal nature but with cultural nature could also be looked at, for example in the Haarlemmermeer with Schiphol.
And we could also pay attention to vulnerable species that you see less and less, such as those presented by Greenpeace: Bell gentian, White-billed rush, Juniper, Rosary, Creeping gorse,
Bone snapper, Arnica, Black grouse, Silver moon, Night peacock, Great Gray Shrike, Bumblebee, Heather Bumblebee, Whippet, Sedge, Spotted orchid, Heather cartel leaf, Lavender heather, Soldier, Earth thistle, Fly orchid, Autumn screw orchid, Zinc pansy, Yellow-bellied toad, Clover blue, Hazel mouse, Wood bumblebee, Floating water plantain, Blue knot, Moor frog, Wheatear, Wheatear, Swampwort, Nightwort, Parrot orchid, … ……
And also to the crowding out species that we see more and more: Pipestraw, Crooked mermaid, Common blackberry, Downy birch, Common bent grass, American bird cherry, Common elder, Pitrus, Stinging nettle, Striped white bulb. Broad spiny fern, finned short stem, tuberous russet, vining helmet flower, sand sedge, dune reed, ……..
Jitske Esselaar, Forester Ecology, Noord-Holland Noord of Natuurmonumenten gave the following information for Zwanenwater and Texel: “Many of the plants that occur in the dunes are species of poor conditions. I cannot name a direct effect [of nitrogen, HL], but an indirect effect I can say: many
of the lean species cannot compete with species that are favored by nitrogen. So due to the grassing and moss growth of the dune due to nitrogen deposition, sandy pieces disappear, so that, for example,
dog violet, dune violet, sand blue can no longer germinate. Or these species become overgrown by grasses. This in turn has an effect on the species that live on it, such as the mother-of-pearl butterfly that lays its eggs on violets. In the dunes of Texel, the rosary is a species that is disappearing due to this process. But this applies more to the dry dune species, dune valley species (which are often rarer due to the small surface area of dune valleys) are used to more nutrient-rich conditions due to the presence of an organic layer in the valleys. As long as we keep mowing them, the species will remain.”
Finally: Nature improvement, a more philosophical approach (Luit Buurma).
The Nitrogen Reduction and Nature Improvement Act raises the question of what we mean by
nature and how feasible it is. When it comes to “halving the livestock” and “circular agriculture” we are talking about eutrophication of our landscape and within it the vulnerable nature of Natura 2000 areas. Because nature in the Netherlands is about semi-nature everywhere (so inside and of course completely outside nature reserves), the unspoken starting point is that nature can be made. However, nothing shows that nature is doing better despite the billions we invested in it (Trouw, Sept 2021). So something is completely wrong both in the practice of nature management and in our thinking about nature conservation, ie in the theory. There are at least 50 definitions of nature, but it is evident that public thinking is about small nature in the form of fringes in the landscape, at most the final item in area development.
It becomes more philosophical when we talk about nature experience and nature education. The point of departure is then that man, and therefore also the human brain, is itself an outcome of evolution. As such, within that human being conservative and innovative forces compete for precedence and it is assumed that “the totality of human thinking” is in a resilient relationship to all non-human life and even the abiotic environment (Westbroek 2012 and Latour 2017, 2021) . Knowledge gaps can lead to residual risks that are difficult to handle.
If safety is at stake, the cure may be worse than the disease (cf. Buurma, 2019).
Contrary to the word nature CARE, nature costs virtually nothing. Worse yet, the idea is alive that nature is a revenue model, after all, harvesting nature is also green and counts in the concept
of nature, also for the large nature conservation organizations (Rob Bijlsma 2021).
With all our intentions to build hundreds of thousands of houses and a lot of infrastructure in our already overcrowded country where virtually no real nature exists anymore, we will have to dare to ask ourselves the fundamental question in many policy areas: where do we prioritize? This is difficult within the current political landscape, where wanting to look more broadly at the greater cohesion of policy fields that do not have a shared interest is no longer a matter of course. We have to choose where we give 4-5 gold star nature a chance and where we emphasize nature with more green stars. And then adjust the policy per area, including customization in the prevention of nitrogen pollution. The moment we continue to put human interests above those of our nature, we have to accept the consequences, nature with fewer stars. This requires clear political choices, hopefully there will also be room for this in the current political system in the Netherlands.
Appendix 4b. The legal (un)tenability of nitrogen policy in the Netherlands
Em prof. Han Lindeboom, Carla Soesbergen-Kuipers
Our building blocks for a solution to the nitrogen deadlock state: “The national legal approach to
the nitrogen problem has become extremely complex, relies too much on percentage contributions from sources and unnecessarily leads to local ecological problems. That requires further elaboration.
On December 17, 2021, Ronald Plasterk wrote an article in De Telegraaf entitled “Nitrogen crisis only exists in the Netherlands”, see below. In it he also points out that the nitrogen crisis is an administratively created problem that can only be solved administratively.
In this appendix we will substantiate that the article is cause for further thought and that the title could possibly have been better read “Nitrogen cycle is being tackled incorrectly in the Netherlands”.
To be continued on next page
In the article Plasterk is wrong and right. Uneven, there is indeed a nitrogen problem in the Netherlands. Right, our approach is wrong. The crisis is largely a bureaucratic reality, too many small fragments of nature, too strict translation of European rules, untenable classification of artificial nature, and a hopeless discussion about that nature. A better title could have been:
In the article, Plasterk also indicates that there is a big difference in approach between the Netherlands and Germany, pointing to a map in which the areas with a nitrogen surplus are colored red and areas without a surplus are colored green. What is striking is that the border between Germany and the Netherlands can be clearly seen from the difference in colors. See figure below.
The difference along the border with the Netherlands is clear. There can be several reasons for this. Fewer NH3-emitting companies or fewer emissions per company, different interpretation of the critical deposition values, difference in calculations or modelling. There is a big difference between the national models. For example, the underlying atmosphere model used by RIVM appears to be much coarser than the atmosphere model used in Germany (prof Pavel Kabat pers.com.). This sharp boundary also leads to more question marks about the Dutch use of the general nitrogen blanket over the country, which should be fully counted everywhere and to which everyone contributes. It has already been stated in other appendices to this report that, in addition to the sources, the effects also differ locally. In the Netherlands, NH3 and NOx are lumped together, while customization is also necessary with regard to the N cycle. Unfortunately, there are too few deposition measurements and research into local concentrations and their effects is lacking. As a result, there is no scientific basis for effective measures that can solve the problem sustainably, financially responsibly and in coordination with other users.
In their book Nitrogen, the insidious effects on nature and health (2021), JW
Erisman and W.de Vries also comment on this issue and below are a number of quotes: “Although nitrogen deposition has decreased by approximately 40% since 1990 [HL: probably more than 50%, see appendix 1], it is still above the critical deposition value (KDW) in 130 nitrogen-sensitive Natura 2000 areas. High exceedances mainly occur in areas with intensive livestock farming in the east and south of the country. In order to achieve natural gains, deposition there must be reduced considerably. When foreign emissions decrease according to the EU emission ceilings for 2030, approximately 35 percent of the natural area will fall below the
KDW, according to model calculations by WUR and RIVM. The calculation also shows that, if the domestic emissions are also reduced by a quarter, half of the Natura 2000 areas will fall under the KDW. If the emissions are halved, three quarters of the nature reserves will be below it. However, some nature reserves remain above the Critical Deposition Values, even with a 100 percent domestic nitrogen reduction (!!!!).
In the discussion the concepts ‘critical deposition value’ and ‘limit value’ are often confused. The critical deposition value is the ecological limit above which the risk of effects increases with increasing nitrogen deposition and exposure time. There is international agreement about the estimate of this value. The limit value is the amount of nitrogen deposition of an activity for which no permit is yet required. And that limit above which projects cannot be carried out without mitigation, each country interprets differently for Natura 2000, the European network of protected areas.
In the Netherlands, a limit value for extra nitrogen deposition of 0.01 mol (approximately 0.14 grams) per year per hectare is now adhered to when granting permits, which in fact means that an activity may not lead to a significant increase in deposition. In comparison: walking a dog in a nature reserve causes just over three grams of nitrogen deposition, more than twenty times as much.
In neighboring countries, permits are much more easily issued for activities that lead to nitrogen emissions in a nearby nature reserve. In the Netherlands, a limit value of 1 mol (14 grams) per hectare per year applied to an activity in the vicinity of a Natura 2000 area. When the Council of State declared the Programmatic Approach Nitrogen (PAS) invalid in May 2019, the limit value went almost to zero. In Germany a permit is only required if a new activity causes more than 7 moles of nitrogen (100 grams) per hectare per year to precipitate in a Natura 2000 area. The Germans also use a margin of error of 20%. In Denmark, the licensing is only related to the ammonia emissions and the requirements for the house type. The barn must have the best available technology to reduce ammonia emissions. In addition, the allowed contribution and deposition depend on the number of stables in the area (50 mol N per hectare at 1 farm to 14 mol N per hectare at more than 1 other farm in the vicinity). Until recently, restrictions in Belgium were only imposed on livestock farms with a major contribution to nitrogen deposition on nearby Natura 2000 areas. A Flemish PAS system is now being developed that is comparable to the Dutch situation. The aim is to reduce the deposition by 50% in 2030 compared to 2020 and to have the deposition on all nature reserves at or below the critical deposition value by 2050. [Tom Kuhlman: It should be noted here that the Netherlands granted licenses under the PAS scheme on the basis of intended reductions in the future. That is what the Council of State no longer accepts.
Because the Dutch government acted in bad faith, the margins that are acceptable in neighboring countries are no longer tolerated here.]
The Nature Conservation Act in the Netherlands stipulates that a project can in principle
only proceed if it is assured that the project will not affect nature. In the PAS ruling it was
taken into account that results to be achieved in the future do not offer that guarantee. The emission and deposition of nitrogen will therefore first have to be significantly reduced. Only
then will there be more room for economic development and only then can further deterioration of our vulnerable nature areas be prevented. So first less nitrogen and then projects.
For example, there must be a guarantee that there is no reasonable scientific doubt that
plans or projects have no harmful effects on the natural features of the Natura 2000 site. To this end, the scientific validity of the assessment must be thoroughly and fully tested.
Calculations show that, with specific customization at companies near Natura 2000 areas, you can reduce the agricultural share in the deposition on 95 percent of the total Natura 2000 hectares to the critical deposition value with a 30 percent emission reduction.
Depending on the reductions of non-agricultural sectors, it is then determined whether the total exceedance of the critical deposition value can be removed. One hundred percent protection of the Natura 2000 areas requires a very large reduction in emissions: to protect the last 5 percent you will have to reduce another 30 percent agricultural emissions. The question is whether this is realistic, given all the uncertainties. It should be clear, however, that it will always be the most nitrogen-sensitive habitats that determine this extra reduction.”
End quotes from Erisman and De Vries (2021).
Where are the problems now?
• There is a major discrepancy between legal regulations and the chemical and ecological reality of the nitrogen problem.
• The RIVM modeling in the Netherlands is too rough to make statements on the desired scale about local possibilities and effects of nitrogen reduction.
• Employees of government institutes are sometimes restricted in communicating their knowledge. The lead author of this appendix has experienced this first-hand.
• There is a lack of scientific knowledge to substantiate effective
measures that can solve the problem sustainably, financially and in coordination with other users.
• The effects of NH3 (agriculture) and NOx (combustion engines) emissions and depositions are wrongly and incorrectly added together and treated as interchangeable.
This means, for example, that buying out farmers would wrongly give space to industry or Schiphol. This is an accounting trick that is separate from securities in Natural Areas.
• Too little account is taken of the difference between wet and dry deposition and with the local hotspots that are the result of this.
• In current legislation and regulations in the Netherlands, the limit value for nitrogen emissions has been set so low that even if all emissions in the Netherlands are completely stopped, the Aerius model will continue to indicate exceedances in Natura 2000 areas. The Netherlands will remain locked up for such a long time.
• The Netherlands has a dysfunctional governance structure. There are too many discrepancies, too little coordination, too many compromises, too much legalization, untenable regulations, lack of implementation power, etc. The allowance affair is a clear example of this, but also in the corona approach, area protection in the North Sea and our dealing with the Caribbean part of the Netherlands are questionable for the same reasons.
• The Dutch way of dealing with EU regulations makes the problem worse than it is in nature.
A new political and legal approach?
We now have a new ministry of nitrogen & nature, with a budget of 25 billion euros.
Such a large amount requires sustainable and verifiable solutions that are secured by correct legal approaches, which also solve practical problems.
At the moment, in the context of nitrogen, all activities must be reducing. As a result, our country is now locked. Because the Dutch government acted in bad faith, the margins
that are acceptable in our neighboring countries such as Germany and Belgium are no longer tolerated in the Netherlands. The judge has decided!
What are possible solutions
• Start an extensive scientific investigation into the actual local
nitrogen deposition values and their effects, both on Natura 2000 areas and other nature areas in the Netherlands, and at the same time research how you can improve nature values.
• Ensure public-wide collaboration between all necessary science, including independent universities and institutes and organizations such as RIVM and PBL that fall under ministerial responsibility.
• Organize public debates on the content. It will contribute to the polarization of society.
• It is essential that tailor-made policy can be developed on these types of major themes at all levels of government: national, provincial and municipal.
• Remove the taboo on an open discussion about the RIVM model. There is too much reliance on 1 model. This model contains demonstrable inaccuracies. Also allows other calculations.
• Accept that Plasterk is largely right when he writes that the nitrogen crisis is an administratively created problem.
• Don’t trivialize the nitrogen problem, but be even more wary of exaggeration.
• Stop the polarization in the political discussion. People are now shopping in facts and alleged facts
about a very complex problem. Only an integrated approach can lead to the desired results, namely
• Choose a chocolate flake approach and not a chocolate spread approach, locally instead of
nationally. Create room for this in the regulations.
• Co-author Soesbergen-Kuipers proposes to apply the general (equality) principles in future
new proposals for legislation and regulations regarding nitrogen and nature:
o The principle of equality. o The principle of due care, o The principle of motivation, o The fair play principle, o The principle of legal certainty, o The principle of legitimate expectations,
So that the administrative court can test a decision taken by an administrative body against
these constitutional principles.
• If new legislation is needed, get started in the 2nd chamber, but don’t wait with local implementation and the other recommendations.
• Switch and manage directly on concrete step-by-step plans and scenarios so that proposals at implementation level can be financed more quickly. • Also provide an independent
information campaign. The Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality –
Nature and Nitrogen should make this a priority and make budget available. Make these campaigns broad. Explanation: The total nitrogen problem has become too complex for both the professional field where it affects people directly in their lives and the survival of their company, but also for the general public. It is also far too unclear for politicians themselves, many forms of nitrogen are used in a cocktail
mixed, and hardly anyone has the overview. Journalism also fails to understand this crisis well enough, so that it is no longer made clear to the inhabitants of our country, resulting in an increase in polarization. • Make integrative connections. Join forces with
the branches, companies and
residents of this country concerned, so that they can also help to arrive at workable solutions. By working together, much more can be done and, above all, quickly. This can lead to major cuts. The remaining budget is valuable money that can be spent on other priorities. The companies and people involved need clarity and want to work in a future-proof and sustainable way.
The way in which we allow dogs in nature reserves also has an effect on the quality of nature in those areas (NRC 8 February 2022).
In the Netherlands, a limit value for extra nitrogen deposition of 0.01 mol (approximately 0.14 grams) per year per hectare is now adhered to when granting permits, which in fact means that an activity may not lead to a significant increase in deposition. In comparison, walking a dog in a nature reserve causes just over three grams of nitrogen deposition—more than twenty times as much.
(Erisman, De Vries, ea 2021).
Appendix 5a: Limits to nitrogen use from the perspective of the world food system (Johan Sanders)
In 2009, a group of leading scientists made an attempt to quantify the support of this world and chose the term Planet Frontiers.
The same classification is used for this as that used in life cycle analyzes (LCA). With life cycle analyses, we map out the environmental impact of a certain activity, which is often compared with another way of obtaining the same product.
Above we see the 9 environmental compartments with the safe green zone in the middle and the red areas where we have already gone over the carrying capacity of the Earth. Climate change due to CO2 emissions has gradually received a lot of attention in the last 20 years. In fact, over the past 20 years, ozone depletion has been successfully halted by the elimination of a number of propellants, but the loss of the world’s biodiversity and also nitrogen use have received very little attention until now, while both have a disastrous effect. could have on the world food supply. The planetary limit for nitrogen was quantified at 90 million tons of nitrogen fertilizer per year. A cold calculation shows that if we have to divide these 90 million tons among the 10 billion people who will be on the world in 2050, only 9 kg per year of nitrogen fertilizer is available for each person. In 1987 the world population was 5 billion people. With that population we would still have 18 kilos of nitrogen space per person.
For every 5 kg of nitrogen that we consume annually in the form of protein – which corresponds to 80 grams of protein per day – we use 24 kg of nitrogen in the Netherlands and even 36 kg per person per year in Europe. In the Netherlands, this leads to a nitrogen deposition of about 5.5 kilos per hectare. That is on average about the same as in Europe. In the Netherlands, however, due to a higher density of road traffic and industry, we also have a significant NOx deposition per hectare. That is why we in the Netherlands are already in the nitrogen crisis, which only describes the tip of the iceberg, because with the 24 kg we are far above 9 kg to stay within the planetary boundary.
Our diet consists of about 1.5 kilos of nitrogen in vegetable protein. Most of it is bread and a small portion is vegetables. We consume about 1 kg of nitrogen in the form of dairy and 2.5 kg in the form of meat.
How can we take in enough protein and still have enough with 9 kg of nitrogen input per person? The picture above shows different scenarios. If we produce the current diet in a more efficient way, more about that below, we still need 17 kilos of nitrogen input. With the amount of animal protein halving and we supplement our diet with protein from leguminous plants such as beans, soy or lupine,
we arrive at 15 kilos and even 12 with more efficient production methods. Only when we
consume only chicken meat and dairy that has been efficiently produced will we remain within
the planet’s limit at 8.8 kilos. A completely vegan diet also yields a good result with 6.5 kilos. If
food protein is of sufficient quality, we would already have enough with 50 grams of protein per day.
n the Netherlands i na not because of Nu Mton sui er Mton aarda elen
Mton of vegetables humane nutrition quality
and Mtons of wheat barley and maize Mtons of grass mainly industrial and animal feed quality Mtons of dry matter
reduce animal feed in a quarter of the agricultural area and divide the human protein roduc on
With the im ort and partial valuation of the rest of the roducts for human food, we also rotate from on ester and ee ports as o erdam msterdam onse uen e is e ort of animal roducts to increase with the use of ports
ie ci nt ge moult of s sto the s sto ro loam disappears and we restore minerals
ringloo country old with the maintenance of the veesta el
knowledge far o and to the rest of the world causing large-scale hunger and migra ee en
Do we have a choice to use more agricultural land for human protein consumption in the Netherlands? We live in a very fertile river delta where, due to the wet conditions, very few crops can be grown that are directly suitable for human consumption, such as sugar beet, potatoes and vegetables. Most crops that we can grow in the Netherlands, such as grass, but also maize and wheat, are of too low quality for direct human consumption and we use them as animal feed. In Europe it is different. There, 1/4 of the agricultural area can be exchanged from animal feed production to crops for direct human consumption, which we can double. If the consumption of animal products is halved, we must learn to process the imported protein raw materials into meat substitutes and if the livestock remains the same, we must use our ports to export this meat to countries where production is much less efficient than in the Netherlands. We can increase the soil-bound protein supply in the Netherlands by a small factor of 2, thus building up strategic knowledge to stay within the planetary boundary as best as possible. We can sell this knowledge because it becomes of great value in many countries.
How do we unen sto e ci nter in e en
rin various measures to reduce the loss of s sto to to reduce the environment by
introducing some of the measures in the short term
Some of the measures offer a favorable business case
reading consumption eN
cien e increase round grass protein
ditto grassland moult
e rui vlinder loemige lanten
cien e increase basic protein
the same landge rui
tri en van ammonia
im ort feed protein
reduction O i replacement so a protein
N H3 emissie
increase essen le amino hours i var ens and i and share of essential protein in cattle feed moulted nits loo as cattle feed moult moths loamy crops that fix el N
iora nage from grass and other lantenloo stri and from ammonia from manure
to hours of manure
separated o catch from ies and oe
When we summarize the measures again, we see on the blue tiles the measure meat consumption must be reduced by 50% and meat export must be increased by 33%. As a result – see green tile
– a herd of livestock can be maintained. We must increase the efficiency of the soil-bound (grass) protein supply in the Netherlands by 90%, so that average vegetable protein utilization will be about 70% better; this means that we import 90% less protein for animal feed, part of which we have to learn to use to replace meat. Because we have more protein available for animal feed in the Netherlands, the CO2 emissions from soy cultivation elsewhere will decrease. Finally, by using leguminous plants in grassland, for example, and by stripping ammonia from manure, we could reduce our fertilizer use by 40%, which means that we lose about 35% less ammonia to the air. This makes the acute nitrogen problem in the Netherlands a thing of the past.
Circular agriculture is a form of sustainable agriculture in which the cycle of substances is closed. This means that all substances that disappear from an area due to agriculture are also returned to the area. The amount of substances that leave an area, such as nitrogen, phosphate, potassium and organic matter must therefore also return to the area. The available resources are used as efficiently as possible and the farmer tries to keep the outflow and inflow of these resources the same.
Due to the large imports of animal feed and at the same time the use of artificial fertilizers, we have an enormous mineral surplus of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium in the Netherlands. The potassium washes away into groundwater and surface water and finally ends up in the sea where an excess of potassium is already present. The phosphate is poorly soluble and accumulates in the soil to present amounts of up to 3000 kg per hectare. This slowly washes out to surface water and thereby contributes to eutrophication resulting in the death of aquatic life because the oxygen content in the water becomes low. The excess of nitrogen leads to leaching and ammonia and N2O emissions that are much higher than would be the case in a natural situation and in this way contributes to the nitrogen problem in the Netherlands.
With Circular Agriculture we aim to reuse as much of the minerals as possible in residual flows from the food industry and agricultural residual flows such as manure in agriculture, so that we can reduce the large supply of minerals and thus the emissions to the air and soil.
Appendix 5 b: Suggestions on how to solve the nitrogen problem in the short term, the consequences for the size of the livestock
(Prof. Johan Sanders, a summary).
The first report of the Cie. Remkes proposes three actions for the short term: reduction of livestock close to Natura 2000 areas for companies with high emissions, reduction of maximum speed on the road and more attention to nature development.
For the longer term, there is talk of barn adjustments and few other concrete matters. It is not stated what is
meant by short term and long term. Is there talk of half a year or 2-3 years?
The warm remediation of the livestock and certainly that of the cattle is expensive and we are exporting
the N problem abroad, while as planet Earth we have already exceeded the carrying capacity as far as nitrogen is concerned (Rockström, 2009).
There are various solutions for the short and somewhat longer term, which cost much less and also have a beneficial effect on other problem areas such as greenhouse gas emissions, farmer income and biodiversity.
A significant part of N emissions comes from agriculture and is caused by our livestock farming. Pigs and
chickens are responsible for approximately 22% of N emissions. Cattle about 47%. These emissions take place from stables, from manure storage in the winter and from manure application on the field in the spring. 50% reduction of pigs and chickens will reduce approximately 11% of emissions.
Several technologies are available or on the point of market introduction that can reduce N emissions to the atmosphere across the entire spectrum of livestock farming, including cattle, the sector with by far the largest manure volume.
Total NH3 emissions are 107,000 tons. This is partly caused by fertilization with fertilizers in arable farming,
but largely from livestock farming. Fertilizer use in Dutch agriculture is 244,000 tons of N, of which 8,500 escapes as NH3, so 8% of the total NH3 emissions. Below are 8 measures (not exhaustive) with conservative estimates of their saving potential. Figures largely come from the MTERRA model described by Lesschen et al (2011)
NB. Measures 1, 2 and 5 may not be added together when it comes to the same animals.
1. Short Term, KT. Increasing the proportion of essential amino acids in pig and
poultry feed reduces the amount of nitrogen entering the manure and thus the emissions during manure storage and during field application in the following season. The reduction in emissions will amount to 2625 to 5000 tons of NH3 as a result of this measure.
2. KT. Increasing the proportion of resistant protein in cattle feed contributes to an increase in nitrogen efficiency and thus to a reduction in N in the manure and thus losses during storage and application. The NH3 emission reduction is 5250 tons.
3. Term 1 year. Picking up beet leaves and use as animal feed immediately or after processing, for example using Grassa technology. The reduction potential is 1000-4200 tons of NH3.
4. Term 1 year. Increasing field yield in grass through mixed cultivation with
legumes. As a result, the nitrogen dose goes down considerably and the protein content goes up.
This has already been demonstrated in Ireland. Less/no (artificial) fertilizer and more leguminous plants
increases the conversion efficiency to vegetable protein and thus reduces the loss of NH3 and
NOx to the atmosphere and NO3 – to the soil. The potential saving amounts to approximately 6400 tons of NH3.
5. Term 1-2 years. Acidification of manure produces less ammonia emissions and at the same time less methane emissions. In Denmark this is a standard technique and in the Netherlands
it will certainly be effective in open cow sheds where no air washing is possible. With 10% modification of all stables, this results in a saving of 5000 tons of NH3.
6. Term 1-2 years. Another technology that may be useful and the PAS
The problem has been reduced by stripping ammonia from manure digestates developed by
Byosis. The company is now one of the best of its kind. This can lead to 2500 tons of NH3 reduction.
7. Term 2-5 years. Refining grass as developed by Grassa BV leads to approximately 25- 30% less nitrogen in the manure. If this technology were to be applied to 20% of the Dutch pastures, this would mean 3500 tons less N emissions.
8. Separate collection of urine and faeces in the barn prevents micro-organisms that are present in large numbers in the solid manure from converting the urea from the urine into
ammonia. Urea is not volatile and ammonia is, at least at a pH above 7.
An unresolved question is how urea that has to be stored in winter behaves.
All these options can be applied close to Natura 2000 areas to optimize the effect of the measures. All these measures have a much greater effect than stopping biomass co-firing in power stations or reducing the maximum speed.
Monetary environmental damage, passing on or rewarding?
In June 2018, the PBL calculated in euros in the report Monetary environmental damage in the Netherlands how great the environmental damage is caused by agriculture. (https://www.pbl.nl/sites/default/files/downloads/pbl-2018-monetaire-milieuschade-in-nederland 3206.pdf)
Of the approximately 7 billion annual environmental damage, more than 5 billion euros is caused by nitrogen, of which 3.9 billion is caused by 128 ktons of ammonia and 1.3 billion is caused by 39 ktons of NOx. While you can say with NOx that CO2 and NOx reduction will go hand in hand in the coming decade through the electrification of agricultural implements, taxing PBL’s €30,500 per tonne of ammonia (or rewarding anyone who tons of nitrogen) for a number of the measures mentioned provide an enormous boost for farmers, who in this way reduce nitrogen emissions. Recalculated, the measure with essential amino acids will amount to approximately €13 per pig. Biorefining of grass saves about €640 per ha and the useful application of beet leaves even €900 per ha. Reduction of ammonia from manure storage will mean approximately €8 per m3 of manure. These amounts and even some of these amounts are attractive rewards, eg to encourage the vanguard of farmers. Once the measure has been implemented, it must be possible to reduce this contribution as soon as the implementation of the measure has become economically sound, so that no structural costs will arise.
Appendix 6: Some striking newspaper articles about the nitrogen maze
NHD May 10, 2021
Telegraph April 16, 2021
NRC May 22, 2021
Volkskrant 6 May 2021
Texelse Courant 7 May 2021
At the beginning of 2020, the main author of this report has already bought tickets for Het Pauperparadijs. In 2020 and 2021 we couldn’t go there because of corona, and not because of nitrogen in 2022. Given the excessive nitrogen regulations, it will now be after St Juttemis. It is now rumored that a farmer wants to make nitrogen space available.
Dagblad van het Noorden, 12 February 2022
Prof Wim de Vries (WUR) in Nederlands Dagblad, 21 February 2022
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