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Identifying indicators of atmospheric nitrogen deposition impacts in acid grasslands

Stevens, C.J.; Maskell, L.C.; Smart, S.M,; Caporn, S.J.M.; Dise, N.B.; Gowing, D.J.C.. 2009 Identifying indicators of atmospheric nitrogen deposition impacts in acid grasslands. Biological Conservation, 142 (10). 2069-2075. 10.1016/j.biocon.2009.04.002

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Abstract/Summary

Atmospheric deposition of nitrogen has become a serious concern for nature conservation managers and policy makers. It has the potential to reduce species richness, increase the graminoid component of the sward, encourage species typical of more fertile conditions and alter the soil biogeochemistry of grasslands. Calcifugous grasslands are among the most sensitive to N deposition due to their poorly buffered soils and species typical of nutrient poor environments. Indicators have an important role to play in detecting the impact of nitrogen deposition on sites of conservation importance and assessing conservation status. This study investigates potential indicators of nitrogen deposition that could be incorporated into site-condition monitoring programmes such as the UK Common Standards Monitoring. Using two national surveys of calcifugous grasslands we examined the potential for using: the presence or absence of indicator species, the cover of indicator species, the species richness and richness of functional groups, and the cover of functional groups as indicators of N deposition impacts. Of all the potential indicators investigated, graminoid:forb ratio was found to be the best indicator of N deposition. It showed a significant relationship to N deposition in both data sets and is quick and easy to assess in the field. Vegetation indicators must be used with caution as there is potential for vegetation management regime and nutrients from other sources to cause similar changes in species composition. Consideration must be given to these before attributing changes to nitrogen deposition.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1016/j.biocon.2009.04.002
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Biodiversity > SE01A Sustainable Monitoring and Management of Land Resources > SE01.2 Countryside Survey 2007
CEH Sections: Parr
ISSN: 0006-3207
Additional Keywords: Acid grasslands, canonical correspondence analysis, countryside survey, indicator species, nitrogen deposition, common standards monitoring.
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Atmospheric Sciences
Date made live: 28 Jan 2010 15:09
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/5558

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