, Volume 141, Issue 1-4, pp 349-382

A Global Analysis of Acidification and Eutrophication of Terrestrial Ecosystems

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


This paper presents an explorative, quantitative analysis of acidification and eutrophication of natural terrestrial ecosystems caused by excess sulfur (S) and nitrogen (N) deposition. The analysis is based on a steady-state approach, involving the comparison of deposition fluxes with critical loads to identify areas where critical loads are exceeded. Deposition fields for sulfur and nitrogen were obtained from the STOCHEM global chemistry-transport model, and they were combined with estimated base cation deposition to derive net acid deposition fluxes. The results indicate that the critical loads for acidification are exceeded in 7–17% of the global area of natural ecosystems. In addition, comparison of nitrogen deposition with critical loads for eutrophication yielded an exceedance in 7–18% of the global natural ecosystems. Apart from serious problems in the heavily industrialized regions of eastern USA, Europe, the former Soviet Union, and large parts of Asia, risks are also found in parts of South America, and West, East and Southern Africa. Both acidification and eutrophication risks could significantly increase in Asia, Africa and South America in the near future, and decrease in North America and Western Europe. Accounting for the effects of N in the analysis of acidification significantly enlarges the potentially affected areas and moves them away from highly industrialized areas compared to studies considering S deposition alone. Major uncertainties in the approach followed are associated with upscaling, the estimates of S, N and base cation emission and deposition fluxes, the critical loads to describe ecosystem vulnerability and the treatment of soil N immobilization and denitrification.

This revised version was published online in November 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.