Water, Air, and Soil Pollution

, Volume 130, Issue 1, pp 1037-1042

First online:

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

  • Carole E.R. PitcairnAffiliated withCentre for Ecology (Edinburgh)
  • , Ian D. LeithAffiliated withCentre for Ecology (Edinburgh)
  • , David FowlerAffiliated withCentre for Ecology (Edinburgh)
  • , Ken J. HargreavesAffiliated withCentre for Ecology (Edinburgh)
  • , Masoud MoghaddamAffiliated withCentre for Ecology (Edinburgh)
  • , Valerie H. KennedyAffiliated withCentre for Ecology (Merlewood) Grange-over-Sands
  • , Lennart GranatAffiliated withDepartment of Meteorology, Stockholm University

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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 N N deposition Calluna vulgaris critical load exceedance Europe