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Nitrogen is essential to the survival of all life forms, yet the natural abundance of useable nitrogen is so low that the massive human alteration of the nitrogen cycle has been required to sustain the feeding of the world's population. The alteration has been made even greater by the release of nitrogen oxides to the atmosphere during fossil fuel combustion.

These changes in the nitrogen cycle have exacerbated a number of environmental issues, including Aquatic, Coastal and Terrestrial eutrophication, Acidification, Climate change, Photochemical smog, Urban air quality, Particles. Stratospheric ozone depletion, all of which have impacts on people and ecosystems on a regional or global scale. The need for food and energy on the one hand and the environmental impacts on the other has caused conflicts between different objectives in the society. Solutions of these conflicts and policy development must be based on high quality, multidisciplinary scientific research and holistic assessments.

The ESF Research Networking Programme 'Nitrogen in Europe', or in short NinE, aims to link together the nine main environmental problems of excess nitrogen for the first time. This challenge of interlinking nine major environmental problems is also reflected in the NinE logo, where NinE is placed at the centre of the transdisciplinary network, and also provides a mnemonic for the nine problems: " ACT AS GROUP". This emphasizes the need to join our efforts in delivering a fully integrated assessment of European nitrogen problems, the state of knowledge, needed scientific developments and the possible future solutions.

Next to developing this European Nitrogen Assessment, NinE will operate through a series of workshops, conferences and travel grants, as well as construct a meta-database containing a description of datasets that are relevant to understand and explain the nine main nitrogen problems.