Addressing the Impact of Atmospheric Nitrogen Deposition on Western European Grasslands

Abstract

There is a growing evidence base demonstrating that atmospheric nitrogen deposition presents a threat to biodiversity and ecosystem function in acid grasslands in Western Europe. Here, we report the findings of a workshop held for European policy makers to assess the perceived importance of reactive nitrogen deposition for grassland conservation, identify areas for policy development in Europe and assess the potential for managing and mitigating the impacts of nitrogen deposition. The importance of nitrogen as a pollutant is already recognized in European legislation, but there is little emphasis in policy on the evaluation of changes in biodiversity due to nitrogen. We assess the potential value of using typical species, as defined in the European Union Habitats Directive, for determining the impact of nitrogen deposition on acid grasslands. Although some species could potentially be used as indicators of nitrogen deposition, many of the typical species do not respond strongly to nitrogen deposition and are unlikely to be useful for identifying impact on an individual site. We also discuss potential mitigation measures and novel ways in which emissions from agriculture could be reduced.

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Acknowledgments

This project was funded by the European Science Foundation through the EURODIVERSITY-programme, and national funds were provided by DfG (Germany), NERC (United Kingdom), NWO (The Netherlands) and INRA, ADEME and Aquitaine Region (France). We are grateful to workshop participants for their useful contributions.

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Stevens, C.J., Gowing, D.J.G., Wotherspoon, K.A. et al. Addressing the Impact of Atmospheric Nitrogen Deposition on Western European Grasslands. Environmental Management 48, 885 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-011-9745-x

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Keywords

  • Acid grasslands
  • Biodiversity
  • Convention on long-range transboundary air pollution (CLRTAP)
  • Nitrogen deposition
  • Species-rich Nardus grassland