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Review of the effectiveness of on-site habitat management to reduce atmospheric nitrogen deposition impacts on terrestrial habitats

Stevens, C.; Jones, L.; Rowe, E.; Dale, S.; Hall, J.; Payne, R.; Evans, C.; Caporn, S.; Sheppard, L.; Menichino, N.; Emmett, B.. 2013 Review of the effectiveness of on-site habitat management to reduce atmospheric nitrogen deposition impacts on terrestrial habitats. Countryside Council for Wales. (CCW Science Report no: 1037 (A), CEH Project no. C04949)

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Abstract/Summary

1. Given the widespread impacts on habitats in the UK it is essential to understand how habitat management measures could mitigate N deposition impacts and promote recovery. This project reviews the effectiveness of ‘on-site’ land management methods to mitigate nitrogen deposition impacts on sensitive habitats; assesses what effect current management practice has on habitat response to nitrogen deposition; considers how measures may be affected by climate change; and recommends realistic and practical management measures for different habitat types which could be used to mitigate nitrogen impacts or speed recovery. 2. The potential for management to mitigate N deposition impacts was considered across the following broad habitats: broadleaved, mixed and yew woodland & (natural) coniferous woodland; neutral grassland; calcareous grassland; acid grassland; dwarf shrub heath; bog; coastal dunes and slacks; other coastal habitats. For all habitats we were able to identify management techniques with some potential to mitigate N deposition impacts. 3. Management techniques may improve habitat suitability (e.g. control dominant species), remove nitrogen from the system, or both. 4. However, all management techniques also have unintended consequences meaning that their implementation might conflict with other conservation priorities. 5. There are a range of schemes and handbooks providing habitat management advice in the UK. The following techniques were reviewed in detail: grazing; cutting; burning; fertilisation; liming; hydrological management; scrub and tree management; disturbance. 6. Current management may already be partially offsetting the impact of N deposition. 7. Management for N is unlikely to make habitats more vulnerable to climate change. There is complementarity in the management options required to tackle N deposition and climate change. The frequency or intensity of measures such as grazing, cutting or burning will all need to increase. Regional variation in climate change may lead to different emphasis of management options in the wetter north west and the drier south east. 8. Climate change will alter habitat sensitivity to N deposition, via changes in ecosystem processes. Overall, climate change will make woodlands less sensitive to N deposition, but will make heathlands more sensitive to N deposition. Effects on other habitats have not yet been evaluated. 9. There is some potential for mitigating the impacts of N deposition through on-site management although this varies greatly between habitat and management practice. It is likely that small changes in management and adherence to appropriate guidelines could partially improve habitat suitability and/or increase N removal. 10. The majority of management practices do not remove significant quantities of N (with the exception of removing biomass or topsoil). Furthermore, management of a suitable intensity to remove sufficient N to fully offset N added by atmospheric deposition is likely to damage the habitat and result in a number of unintended consequences. 11. Further research is needed to determine the impacts of individual management practices on the N budget in different habitats. Further research is also needed to explore the potential for novel management techniques to remove N from sites. 12. For an individual site where N is identified as a pressure, a manager can look at current management and compare this with the management recommendations in the report to make changes where appropriate. 13. All management recommendations that remove N from the site move it elsewhere and have the potential for unintended consequences. Consequently there is no substitute for reducing the amount of N deposited onto a site which can only be achieved through emission controls.

Item Type: Publication - Report (UNSPECIFIED)
CEH Sections: Emmett
Funders/Sponsors: Countryside Council for Wales
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Atmospheric Sciences
Date made live: 30 Apr 2015 07:52 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/510481

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