Water, Air, & Soil Pollution

, Volume 223, Issue 1, pp 371–387 | Cite as

Testing the Feasibility of Using the ForSAFE-VEG Model to Map the Critical Load of Nitrogen to Protect Plant Biodiversity in the Rocky Mountains Region, USA

  • Harald Sverdrup
  • Todd C. McDonnell
  • Timothy J. SullivanEmail author
  • Bengt Nihlgård
  • Salim Belyazid
  • Beat Rihm
  • Ellen Porter
  • William D. Bowman
  • Linda Geiser


The ForSAFE-VEG model was used to estimate atmospheric nitrogen deposition and climate effects on soil chemistry and ground vegetation in alpine and subalpine zones of the northern and central Rocky Mountains region in the USA from 1750 to 2500. Model simulations for a generalized site illustrated how the critical load of atmospheric nitrogen deposition could be estimated to protect plant biodiversity. The results appear reasonable compared with past model applications in northern Europe. Atmospheric N deposition critical loads estimated to protect plant biodiversity were 1 to 2 kg N/ha/year. This range could be greater, depending on the values selected for critical site-specific parameters (precipitation, temperature, soil chemistry, plant nutrient uptake, and any eventual harvest of biomass) and the amount of biodiversity change allowed.


Nitrogen Climate Eutrophication Alpine Vegetation 



This study was funded by the National Park Service, Air Resources Division, Denver Colorado, through a contract with E&S Environmental Chemistry, Inc. Vegetation response data for the Rocky Mountains region were provided by the Denver Workshop participants. The participation of Dr. B. Nihlgård was sponsored by the Swedish Critical Loads Programme, funded by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.

Supplementary material

11270_2011_865_MOESM1_ESM.doc (342 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 341 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harald Sverdrup
    • 1
  • Todd C. McDonnell
    • 2
  • Timothy J. Sullivan
    • 2
    Email author
  • Bengt Nihlgård
    • 1
  • Salim Belyazid
    • 1
  • Beat Rihm
    • 3
  • Ellen Porter
    • 4
  • William D. Bowman
    • 5
  • Linda Geiser
    • 6
  1. 1.Biogeochemistry and Systems Analysis, Chemical EngineeringLund UniversityLundSweden
  2. 2.E&S Environmental Chemistry, Inc.CorvallisUSA
  3. 3.Meteotest AGBernSwitzerland
  4. 4.National Park Service, Air Resources DivisionDenverUSA
  5. 5.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  6. 6.U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region Air Resources Management ProgramCorvallisUSA

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