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The need to integrate legacy nitrogen storage dynamics and time lags into policy and practice

Ascott, Matthew J.; Gooddy, Daren C.; Fenton, Owen; Vero, Sara; Ward, Rob S.; Basu, Nandita B.; Worrall, Fred; Van Meter, Kimberly; Surridge, Ben W.J.

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Matthew J. Ascott

Daren C. Gooddy

Owen Fenton

Sara Vero

Rob S. Ward

Nandita B. Basu

Kimberly Van Meter

Ben W.J. Surridge


Increased fluxes of reactive nitrogen (Nr), often associated with N fertilizer use in agriculture, have resulted in negative environmental consequences, including eutrophication, which cost billions of dollars per year globally. To address this, best management practices (BMPs) to reduce Nr loading to the environment have been introduced in many locations. However, improvements in water quality associated with BMP implementation have not always been realised over expected timescales. There is a now a significant body of scientific evidence showing that the dynamics of legacy Nr storage and associated time lags invalidate the assumptions of many models used by policymakers for decision making regarding Nr BMPs. Building on this evidence, we believe that the concepts of legacy Nr storage dynamics and time lags need to be included in these models. We believe the biogeochemical research community could play a more proactive role in advocating for this change through both awareness raising and direct collaboration with policymakers to develop improved datasets and models. We anticipate that this will result in more realistic expectations of timescales for water quality improvements associated with BMPs. Given the need for multi-nutrient policy responses to tackle challenges such as eutrophication, integration of N stores will have the further benefit of aligning both researchers and policymakers in the N community with the phosphorus and carbon communities, where estimation of stores is more widespread. Ultimately, we anticipate that integrating legacy Nr storage dynamics and time lags into policy frameworks will better meet the needs of human and environmental health.


Ascott, M. J., Gooddy, D. C., Fenton, O., Vero, S., Ward, R. S., Basu, N. B., …Surridge, B. W. (2021). The need to integrate legacy nitrogen storage dynamics and time lags into policy and practice. Science of the Total Environment, 781,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 19, 2021
Online Publication Date Mar 24, 2021
Publication Date 2021
Deposit Date Aug 31, 2021
Publicly Available Date Aug 31, 2021
Journal Science of The Total Environment
Print ISSN 0048-9697
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 781


Published Journal Article (529 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
Creative Commons<br /> <br /> This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons CC-BY license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.<br /> <br /> You are not required to obtain permission to reuse this article.<br /> <br /> <br /> To request permission for a type of use not listed, please contact Elsevier Global Rights Department.

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