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Strengthening Portuguese research and innovation capacities in the field of excess reactive nitrogen

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NitroPortugal (Strengthening Portuguese research and innovation capacities in the field of excess reactive nitrogen)

Reporting period: 2017-04-01 to 2018-12-31

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, Nr did not accumulate in the environment because microbial N fixation and denitrification processes were mutually compensated, as Nr was only produced from lightning, burning and biological N fixation. However, in the mid-18th century, the Industrial Revolution was the turning point in man’s relationship with the environment. With further dramatic growth through the 20th century, this led to the need for increased food production, spiraling towards an out of control situation .
However, this advance in agricultural production did not come without costs, as nitrogen became the single most important pollutant deriving from agriculture. Although humans learned how to produce more Nr, we have failed in managing Nr surpluses in the environment due to low nitrogen-use efficiency . In fact, the human alteration of the nitrogen cycle, by transforming unreactive N2 into Nr, has led to the pollution of the hydrological cycle with nitrates and thus to the contamination of drinking water, lakes, rivers and oceans, and is projected to increase.
Nr molecules can convert rapidly from one form to another and move from one environmental system to another, generating the N cascade phenomenon. The endpoint of the cascade is the emission of N2, while on the way, contributing to all the other problems noted.
This disruption of the N cycle is especially due to changes in agriculture combined with Nr from industry, energy generation and transportation. Moreover, the N cycle is probably the most altered amongst the basic elements cycles. These authors have estimated that ~77% of the anthropogenic Nr derives from food production, ~16% from energy production and only ~9% from industrial uses. One of the activities with a greater pollution potential is animal production, which consumes about 85% of the total N harvested in EU agricultural primary productivity.
The Overall Goal of NitroPortugal is to stimulate scientific excellence and innovation capacity on the multiple threats and benefits of nitrogen in Portugal through development of strategic collaboration with world leading partners from centres of excellence in the UK and Denmark.
WP 1 (Management and coordination)
● The project has run smoothly, with the collaboration between partners working well. All deliverables were submitted. Small calendar rescheduling has been carried out during the project, due to the need to find appropriate dates when all relevant partners and invited speakers were available. This resulted in some workshops, training activities and related deliverables being re-scheduled and submitted either sooner or later than in the participant portal timeline of deliverables list. No impact on the overall progress of the project, which is on track to fulfill all commitments by the end date.
● Project finances have been managed well, with spending in line with the milestones and deliverables achieved. (§ financial report)

WP 2 (Science and knowledge coordination)
Five formal scientific coordination meetings took place and many informal meetings as well, to analyse the progress of publications and training.

WP 3 (Coordination of training and outreach within the consortium)

Training visits have been organised as described in the DoA and carried out successfully between the visiting scientists from ISA and FCUL and the hosting institutes (AU and CEH), with skills and knowledge transfer on modeling and measurements of nitrogen across the topics of water, air, GHG, ecosystems and soils.

WP 4 (Water quality and nitrogen)

All three objectives were fulfilled. Progress was made with answering the questions still outstanding on the water topic, in particular how the delimitation of more nitrate vulnerable zones will affect the general state of the waters in Portugal, writing up the findings as peer review papers and disseminating through a student training school (2018) and stakeholder interactions.

WP 5 (Air quality and nitrogen)

All tasks progressed well, with the first joint workshop on air (this WP) and ecosystems (WP7) establishing the current status knowledge and any gaps on Portuguese research and data availability on the topic. Several papers were also either submited or published.

WP 6 (Greenhouse balance and nitrogen)

This WP started in the second reporting period. Staff exchange visit from ISA to CEH on field and laboratory measurement techniques for greenhouse gases took place in early summer 2017 and 2018, and a thematic workshop in the autumn of 2017.

WP 7 (Ecosystems, biodiversity and nitrogen)

This WP progressed well, with the teams (mainly FFCUL and CEH but also with ISA involvement) collaborating smoothly and in frequent contact, and all deliverables duely achieved. This included medium and short term training visits by Portuguese researchers to the UK, and well advanced preparations for a joint Thematic workshop for this WP and WP5 (air) and the joint 2017 student training school (also WPs 5, 7) that took place early in the second reporting period (May 2017).

1.2.8 Work package 8 (Soils and nitrogen)

The WP has progressed well, with two workshop organized and papers published and submited, and several presentations to international and national meetings. One workshop on the soil topic was organized with the collaboration of the Évora University and the other the Azores University.

1.2.9 Work package 9 (Dissemination and outreach outside the consortium)

A large number of scientific and technical publications were published, are still under revision process and a few are still being finalized. Many presentations at conferences have been given and abstracts accepted for conferences taking place over the coming months. Training schools were successfuly organized and had significant attendance, extra thematic workshops were organized as planed. Outreach activities with other Portuguese universities and 3 participatory stakeholder workshops took place (audience: farmers, farmer associations, environment regulatory authorities (APA) and researchers).
A large number of scientific and technical publications were published (16), Others are still undel the peer review process (7), and an aditional 13 are currently in progress for submission shortly. Many presentations at conferences have been given or abstracts accepted for conferences taking place over the coming months for all the WAGES topics and for general nitrogen related issues. Three student Training Schools were orgaized in May 2017 and June 2018, on the topic of atmospheric nitrogen and ecosystem impacts, and in water and soil. Outreach activities with other Portuguese universities and the planned participatory stakeholder workshop (audience: farmers, farmer associations, environment regulatory authorities (APA) and researchers)took place during the project.