Conference of the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI)
- Nitrogen is one of the five major chemical elements that are necessary for life. While nitrogen is the most abundant of these, more than 99% of it occurs as molecular nitrogen, or N2, which cannot be used by most organisms.
- This is because breaking the triple bond holding the two nitrogen atoms together requires a large amount of energy, which can be mustered only through high-temperature processes or by a small number of nitrogen-fixing microbes.
- In the prehuman world, a small amount of usable reactive nitrogen was created from N2 by lightning and biological nitrogen fixation, but the spread of reactive nitrogen was held in check by denitrification, a process that converts reactive N back to N2.
- Human beings have dramatically altered the nitrogen balance, breaking into the vast reservoir of molecular nitrogen and releasing reactive forms into the environment. We have done so by cultivating legumes, rice, and other crops that promote nitrogen fixation, by burning fossil fuels, and by transforming non reactive atmospheric nitrogen to ammonia to sustain food production and some industrial processes.
- During the last few decades, the global increase of reactive nitrogen by all human sources has far outstripped production from all natural terrestrial systems, and since the 1960s, the rate of increase has accelerated sharply.
- The International Nitrogen Initiative (INI) is an international program, set up in 2003 under sponsorship of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) and from the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP).
- The key aims of the INI are to:
- To optimize nitrogen’s beneficial role in sustainable food production, and
- To minimize nitrogen’s negative effects on human health and the environment resulting from food and energy production.
- The INI holds a conference every three years, inviting members of the international nitrogen community to meet up and discuss ideas and exchange knowledge on nitrogen issues.
- Last conference was held in Melbourne, in December 2016. The 2020 conference in Berlin, Germany was postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Why in the news?
- This year 8th conference of INI in virtual mode was held to assess global nitrogen from May 31-June 3, 2021.
- The United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been the main focus in the conference.
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