, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 136–147 | Cite as

Assessing the Impacts of Long-Range Sulfur and Nitrogen Deposition on Arctic and Sub-Arctic Ecosystems

  • Martin Forsius
  • Maximilian Posch
  • Julian Aherne
  • Gert Jan Reinds
  • Jesper Christensen
  • Lars Hole


For more than a decade, anthropogenic sulfur (S) and nitrogen (N) deposition has been identified as a key pollutant in the Arctic. In this study new critical loads of acidity (S and N) were estimated for terrestrial ecosystems north of 60° latitude by applying the Simple Mass Balance (SMB) model using two critical chemical criteria (Al/Bc = 1 and ANCle = 0). Critical loads were exceeded in large areas of northern Europe and the Norilsk region in western Siberia during the 1990s, with the more stringent criterion (ANCle = 0) showing the larger area of exceedance. However, modeled deposition estimates indicate that mean concentrations of sulfur oxides and total S deposition within the Arctic almost halved between 1990 and 2000. The modeled exceeded area is much reduced when currently agreed emission reductions are applied, and almost disappears under the implementation of maximum technically feasible reductions by 2020. In northern North America there was no exceedance under any of the deposition scenarios applied. Modeled N deposition was less than 5 kg ha−1 y−1 almost across the entire study area for all scenarios; and therefore empirical critical loads for the eutrophying impact of nitrogen are unlikely to be exceeded. The reduction in critical load exceedances is supported by observed improvements in surface water quality, whereas the observed extensive damage of terrestrial vegetation around the mining and smelter complexes in the area is mainly caused by direct impacts of air pollution and metals.


Arctic Critical loads Exceedance Acidity Nitrogen Modelling 



The authors acknowledge the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme for the motivation behind this study. M.P. has been partially supported by the European Commission LIFE III programme within the framework of the European Consortium for Modelling Air Pollution and Climate Strategies (EC4MACS) and the trust fund for the partial funding of effect-oriented activities under the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution. The Danish Environmental Protection Agency financially supported (part of) this work with means from the MIKA/DANCEA funds for Environmental Support to the Arctic Region. The findings and conclusions presented here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency. This research was undertaken, in part, thanks to funding from the Canada Research Chairs Program and an NSERC Discovery grant. The authors gratefully acknowledge the Canadian National Atmospheric Chemistry (NAtChem) database and its data contributing agencies for the provision of the deposition data. We thank Ina Tegen (Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research, Leipzig, Germany) for providing modeled calcium deposition data. We gratefully thank the CNR Institute of Ecosystem Study, Pallanza, for providing a stimulating and atmospheric work environment, where J.A. was a collaborator via a fellowship under the OECD Co-operative Research Programme: Biological Resource Management for Sustainable Agriculture Systems.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Forsius
    • 1
  • Maximilian Posch
    • 2
  • Julian Aherne
    • 3
  • Gert Jan Reinds
    • 4
  • Jesper Christensen
    • 5
  • Lars Hole
    • 6
  1. 1.Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE)HelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Coordination Centre for Effects (CCE), PBLBilthovenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Environmental and Resource StudiesTrent UniversityPeterboroughCanada
  4. 4.Alterra, Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR)WageningenThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Department of Atmospheric Environment, National Environmental Research InstituteUniversity of AarhusRoskildeDenmark
  6. 6.Norwegian Institute for Air Research, Tromsø office, Polar Environment CenterTromsøNorway

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