Global NEWS Mission

What Is Global NEWS?

Global NEWS is an international, interdisciplinary scientific taskforce, focused on understanding the relationship between human activity and coastal nutrient enrichment. It was formed in the spring of 2002 as a workgroup of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), with co-sponsorship by UNEP, US-NSF, and US-NOAA. Global NEWS is a LOICZ affiliated project.

The primary aim of Global NEWS is to construct and apply the next generation of spatially explicit, global nutrient export models, linking the resulting river loads to quantitative assessments of coastal ecosystem health. The first set of global river export models was published in late 2005 in a special collection of the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles. Please refer to these articles for more details about the models and associated results.

Why Global NEWS?

  • Humans have dramatically altered the earth’s nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), silica (Si), and carbon (C) cycles, resulting in considerable coastal environmental degradation (e.g. increased algal growth, alteration and loss of seagrass habitats, increase in extent and duration of anoxic and hypoxic water, harmful algal blooms, and coral reef degradation, among other effects.)
  • Sources of nutrients to the coastal zone such as fertilizer use, sewage, livestock production, and fossil fuel combustion are projected to increase rapidly over the next several decades.
  • Uneven spatial distribution of human population, agriculture, and industrial activity leads to spatial differences in nutrient inputs to coastal ecosystems (Fig. 1).

DIN Export from Watersheds to Coastal Systems

Figure 1. Nitrogen (inorganic N) export from watersheds to coastal systems. units: kg N km-2 watershed y-1. From S.P. Seitzinger and C. Kroeze 1998. Global distribution of nitrous oxide production and N inputs in freshwater and coastal marine ecosystems. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 12(1): 93-113. [pdf]

  • Future nutrient export to the coastal zone is likely to be spatially diverse as well, with large relative and absolute increases concentrated in developing regions such as Africa, South America, and Eastern and Southern Asia (Fig. 2). Substantial increases are also predicted for Europe and N. America unless policy or technological advances alter current trends.
  • Previous spatially explicit global models of nutrient export have focused on a single element or nutrient form. Because the relative availability of different nutrients and different nutrient forms (dissolved vs. particulate, inorganic vs. organic) can influence ecosystem response, single element approaches are often insufficient to predict ecosystem vulnerability or response. The multi-element, multi-form approach taken by the Global NEWS group will generate improved scientific understanding and management tools.

DIN Export by World Regions: 1990 and 2050, Business As Usual Scenario

Figure 2. Predicted increases in N export to coastal systems by the year 2050. Model predictions from C. Kroeze and S. P. Seitzinger. 1998. Nitrogen inputs to rivers, estuaries and continental shelves and related nitrous oxide emissions in 1990 and 2050: A global model. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 52: 195-212.

Goals of Global NEWS and Accomplishments to Date

  • Development of next generation of spatially explicit, multi-element (N, P, Si, and C), multi-form (particulate and dissolved, organic and inorganic) model systems to predict nutrient transport to coastal systems as a function of natural processes and human activities on the landscape.
  • Advance understanding of the relationships between human activities and natural processes on land and nutrient inputs to coastal systems.
  • Development of quantitative relationships between river nutrient load and coastal ecosystem health for regional to global applications. This is a current focus area in Global NEWS.
  • Analyze past, current, and hypothetical future scenarios. We are currently preparing input datasets and model applications for the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment future development scenarios, including results for a 2000 baseline year and projections for the years 2030 and 2050.
  • Guide environmentally sound economic development, particularly in less developed nations, through the creation and distribution of sound scientific understanding and analysis of nutrient sources and fates at the regional scale. With this goal in mind we have carried out GEF-sponsored training workshops in the context of Large Marine Ecosystems. Future efforts may involve links with the UNEP-MAP program as well.
  • Publish results in peer-reviewed publications and on the internet via the IOC website. The first set of global river export models was published in late 2005.
  • Career development for postdoctoral fellows and training for graduate students.

Possible Applications for Global NEWS

  • Identification of areas prone to nutrient over-enrichment
  • Explanation of regional patterns in coastal nutrient enrichment
  • Prediction and mitigation of environmental impacts of nutrient over-enrichment (e.g. occurrence of harmful algal blooms)
  • Identification of nutrient sources to the coastal zone and their relative importance
  • Evaluation of potential environmental impacts due to economic and policy decisions at the national, regional, and global level