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EPA Sustainable and Healthy Communities (SHC) Research News Flash

SHC News Flash April 2013

The Nitrogen Problem

Too much nitrogen can flow a long way. In fact, even though nitrogen exists naturally in our atmosphere and is cycled by plants and bacteria, in excess it can lead to environmental problems. The development and use of synthetic nitrogen in fertilizers means more nitrogen is being put on the land and in the air than plants and bacteria can recycle. This excess nitrogen washes into surrounding waters, causing algal blooms that lead to oxygen levels that are too low to support animal life, sparking concerns in the communities that rely on the water.

EPA is pleased to highlight the latest research on nutrient pollution with a focus on reactive nitrogen. (http://www.epa.gov/nheerl/articles/2013/nutrient_pollution.html). In addition to briefly explaining the nitrogen cycle and how the issue of excess nitrogen came about, the site links to an EPA nitrogen study published in the March 2013 issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/110216). 

For additional information please contact Jana Compton (compton.jana@epa.gov)

"Click" Here for Sustainability: Sustainability Indicators and Indices
Key information to support sustainability based decision making in communities will soon be just a click away. EPA is pleased to share progress in providing indicators and indices to assess, track, and inform community sustainability. EPA has developed DOSII, a searchable database of indicators that may be used to assess sustainability, and a corresponding framework document on the selection and use of sustainability indicators.

DOSII (Directory of Sustainability Indicators and Indices) is a standalone tool and provides information on measures for evaluating the sustainability of programs, projects, and activities related to air, water, energy, products, communities, human health risks, and national security. In addition, an interactive web-based tool (e-DOSII) is being developed based on DOSII to extend the indicator and and indices database search capabilities to communities. Communities interested in exploring metrics for sustainability will be able to develop a customized list of indicators and indices to support community-based decision making, such as cost-benefit analysis, monitoring and assessment, and community outreach, based on the community's  specific sustainability priorities. DOSII and the framework document are available here (pdf). eDOSII is expected to roll out In October of 2014.

For a copy of the current version of DOSII or any additional information, please contact Tarsha Eason (eason.tarsha@epa.gov).

Ecosystem Services: Natural Freebies
When it comes to "freebies", Mother Nature is not stingy. Clean air, juicy apples, and even that occasional rain shower that slows down your commute are the result of natural processes producing "ecosystem services". Nature shapes our health and well being by cleaning air and water and providing food, clothing and materials to build homes. However, we are using ecosystem services faster than the ecosystems can regenerate them. In short, our current way of life is not sustainable.

In response to this issue, EPA has developed the Tampa Bay Ecosystem Services website, a tool to engage the public and potential new partners by providing a common language and foundation for incorporating the value of and risk of losing ecosystem services into decision making.
The interactive website asks and answers the question, "What has nature done for you lately?" In addition to providing interesting facts about the services provided by different ecosystems, the site also links to several other web pages that map the services of interest and value (including monetary) to Tampa Bay area residents. Researchers hope that the product will draw attention to the importance of ecosystem services everywhere and the role that sustainable practices could play in preserving them.

For additional information please contact Marc Russell (Russell.marc@epa.gov).

 

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