Water, Air, and Soil Pollution

, Volume 130, Issue 1, pp 1037–1042

Foliar Nitrogen as an Indicator of Nitrogen Deposition and Critical Loads Exceedance on a European Scale


  • Carole E.R. Pitcairn
    • Centre for Ecology (Edinburgh)
  • Ian D. Leith
    • Centre for Ecology (Edinburgh)
  • David Fowler
    • Centre for Ecology (Edinburgh)
  • Ken J. Hargreaves
    • Centre for Ecology (Edinburgh)
  • Masoud Moghaddam
    • Centre for Ecology (Edinburgh)
  • Valerie H. Kennedy
    • Centre for Ecology (Merlewood) Grange-over-Sands
  • Lennart Granat
    • Department of MeteorologyStockholm University

DOI: 10.1023/A:1013908312369

Cite this article as:
Pitcairn, C.E., Leith, I.D., Fowler, D. et al. Water, Air, & Soil Pollution (2001) 130: 1037. doi:10.1023/A:1013908312369


The foliar N content of bryophytes and Calluna vulgaris (L.) has been shown to be an indicator of atmospheric N deposition in the UK at a regional scale (1000km) and more recently on a smaller scale in the vicinity of intensive livestock farms. This work extends the geographical scale of the relationship between foliar N concentration of Calluna vulgaris and other ericaceous shrubs and N deposition with 2 measurement transects, one extending from northern Finland to southern Norway (2000 km) and the other extending from central Sweden to Stockholm, south east Sweden (330 km). Included in the second transect is a region of complex terrain in the Transtrand uplands, where the variation in N deposition with altitude and canopy cover was quantified using 210Pb inventories in organic soil. The relationship between foliar N (FN) and N deposition was shown to increase linearly with N deposition (ND) over the range 0.8% N to 1.4% N according to FN = 0.040ND + 0.793 (r2 = 0.70). The data are entirely consistent with earlier studies which together provide a valuable indicator of critical loads exceedance, the threshold value being approximately 1.5% N, which is equivalent to a N deposition of 20 kg N ha−1 y−1.

foliar NN depositionCalluna vulgariscritical load exceedanceEurope

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001