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Dryad

Data for: A hierarchical framework for unpacking the nitrogen challenge

Cite this dataset

Zhang, Weifeng et al. (2022). Data for: A hierarchical framework for unpacking the nitrogen challenge [Dataset]. Dryad. https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.hdr7sqvmr

Abstract

To feed the world population while mitigating pressing nitrogen (N) pollution problems, tremendous efforts have been devoted to developing and implementing N-efficient technologies in food production, but limited progress has been made. The N management improvement on a farm does not necessarily translate to N pollution reduction on a broader scale due to complex responses of natural and human systems and lack of coordination among stakeholders. Consequently, it is imperative to develop an N management framework that encompasses the complex N dynamics across systems and spatial scales, yet simple enough to guide policies and actions of various stakeholders. Here, we propose a new framework, CAFE, that defines four N management systems (Cropping, Animal-crop, Food, and Ecosystem) in a hierarchical manner, and apply it to 13 representative countries to partition N surpluses across systems in a simple and consistent manner, thereby facilitating the identification and prioritization of systems-based intervention strategies. Surprisingly, the Cropping system contributes less than half of the total N surplus within its Ecosystem for most countries, highlighting the importance of N management beyond croplands. As N surplus increases along the CAFE hierarchy, systems-based intervention strategies are revealed: coupling chemical fertilizers with other N sources by maintaining half of the N from manure and N bio-fixation; coupling animal-crop production by reducing animal density to lower than 1.2 livestock units, and increasing self-sufficiency of animal feed to above 50%; coupling food trade with domestic demand and production; and coupling population needs for economic opportunities with environmental capacity of the region.

Methods

Data of nitrogen contents and the classification of different crop and animal products were provided in Supplementary Data “SI_DataS1”, data of nitrogen budgets across CAFE system during the defined periods for the selected countries can be access from Supplementary Data “SI_DataS2”.

Funding

Ministry of Science and Technology of the People's Republic of China, Award: 2016YFD0201303

Ministry of Science and Technology of the People's Republic of China, Award: 31421092

National Science Foundation, Award: CNS-1739823

National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center

Ministry of Science and Technology of the People's Republic of China, Award: ZDKJ2021008