Component 1

Component 1: Tools & Methods for the N cycle

The purpose of this component is to develop the necessary tools and approaches that form the basis for improving understanding and quantification of the global nitrogen cycle, and hence create a foundation for developing the necessary interventions at global and regional scales. Component 1 focuses on establishing necessary method, models and indicators, considering especially the datasets that are required.  Its perspective crosses from biophysical dimensions, linking water systems (aquatic and marine) to terrestrial systems (including agricultural and other activities) to atmospheric systems, including emissions, transport, levels of nitrogen compounds and deposition.  This biophysical perspective is complemented by the development of economic and social perspectives that are critical in understanding the drivers, opportunities and limitations to achieving better nitrogen management at global and regional scales.

The main elements and outputs of Component 1 are as follows:

Main elements

  • Action to develop better indicators of nitrogen systems, including national and farm scale nitrogen budgeting approaches, a suite of nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) approaches, and the relationship between such budget, balance and efficiency indicators to effect based indicators of societal benefits and adverse environmental effects;
  • Development of a threat assessment methodology, including identification of the key threats, stakeholder review and refinement, development of assessment methodology for the different threats and drafting guidance; 
  • Development of the methodology for combined assessment of nitrogen fluxes and distribution, considering the linkages between air, land and water, and dispersion through trade, including review of methods for different N components and different environmental compartments, leading to the preparation of guidance methodology;
  • Refinement of approaches for threat benefit valuation, including review of existing studies, refinement of methodology across contrasting economies, integration of the benefits and threats for food, health, ecosystem, climate and energy, and the valuation under future nitrogen scenarios;
  • Development of flux-impact path models for assessment, scenarios and strategy evaluation, including translating storylines into model requirements, review and comparison of component models, designing model framework, application of selected models in a model cluster, and demonstration of the model cluster at global and regional scales;
  • Examination of the barriers to achieving better nitrogen management, linking the economic, social, cultural and other factors that affect adoption of measures, examination of the barriers in food systems and in relation to sustainable consumption, and exploration of the role of a full nitrogen approach and other options to overcome the barriers.

Key outputs

  • Output 1.1. Indicators for assessing full N budgets, use, levels and impacts, including N use efficiency and benchmarking. Indicators would be designed and tested for relevance to specific stakeholders
  • Output 1.2. Methodology for nitrogen threat assessment
  • Output 1.3. Methods for determining N fluxes and distribution (water, air, land, agriculture, industry etc)
  • Output 1.4. Approaches to estimate the value of N threats and benefits
  • Output 1.5. Approach to using existing N flux/pathway models and harmonizing their results for global/regional assessments and scenario analysis
  • Output 1.6. Understanding the barriers to change at all levels of society (government, private sector and civil society) including technical, financial and socio-political limitations.


Component 1 is composed of six activities which are delivering the outputs above. Project managment for Component 1 is shown in the diagram below.