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New science on the effects of nitrogen deposition and concentrations on Natura 2000 sites (theme 3): background documement

By A. Nordin, L.J. Sheppard, J. Strengbom, R. Bobbink, U. Gunnarsson, W.K. Hicks and M.A. Sutton


This background paper summarizes established and new science on the effects of nitrogen (N)\ud deposition on ecosystems and considers the potential for improved assessment of N deposition\ud impacts on Natura 2000 sites. The key aspects covered are N deposition effects on biodiversity and\ud on biogeochemistry, links to ecosystem services, the importance of N form, N deposition indicators,\ud management practices and ecosystem reversibility following decreased N input.\ud The paper shows that:\ud • Evidence of N impacts on different vegetation types in Europe exists, but that it is important\ud that it is translated meaningfully to the target habitats listed under the Habitats Directive.\ud Evidence for N deposition effects to important ecosystem services, such as carbon\ud sequestration, also exists but the cause and effect relationships underlying them are often\ud complex and not sufficiently understood.\ud • Chemical N form can influence both the rate of ecosystem change, and the extent of impacts\ud on the short and long-term. Evidence is presented for ammonia causing detrimental plant\ud physiological effects, probably on the majority of species, whilst ammonium and nitrate\ud effects will depend on plant species present.\ud • Plant species composition as well as plant biochemical parameters may be useful\ud bioindicators for assessment of N deposition effects in Natura 2000 sites, however\ud “baseline” data are mostly not available for rare species. Ecosystem specific indicators,\ud that are predictive of further damage, rather than a consequence of already existing adverse\ud effects (i.e., early warning indicators) are needed.\ud • Site level management practices can be useful to reduce the impact if N deposition but they\ud will certainly not be able to mitigate all the impacts of enhanced N deposition and enhances N concentration on Natura 2000 habitats. More knowledge is needed to better understand\ud where and if management intervention is appropriate to mitigate N effects.\ud • Studies on the reversibility of N impacts show that some ecosystem parameters may revert\ud quickly, while other components may show strong inertia. In some cases reversion to the\ud original state may however be impossible.\ud • Climatic factors interfere with ecosystem effects of N deposition. It is clear that climate\ud both can emphasize and mitigate effects of N deposition. Current climate and expected\ud climatic changes must be included in assessments and predictions of N deposition effects\ud on ecosystems.\ud The aim is to provide a broad picture of scientific advancement within the field of N deposition\ud research, and to provide a starting point for workshop discussions. Workshop discussions addressed\ud the relevance of new science in assessing N deposition impacts on Natura 2000 sites, and identified\ud when there is potential to make management adjustments to mitigate such effects.\u

Publisher: COST Office - European Cooperation in Science and Technology
Year: 2011
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