Impacts and indicators of nitrogen deposition in moorlands: Results from a national pollution gradient study

Caporn, Simon J.M.; Carroll, Jacky A.; Dise, Nancy B.; Payne, Richard J.. 2014 Impacts and indicators of nitrogen deposition in moorlands: Results from a national pollution gradient study. Ecological Indicators, 45. 227-234.

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Damage to terrestrial ecosystems from long-term atmospheric nitrogen pollution is a key conservation challenge in many industrialized countries. An important research and management priority is the identification of bioindicators to allow pollution exposure and ecological impacts to be determined at an individual site. We evaluate the impacts of nitrogen (N) deposition and identify methods with bioindication potential across a national-scale pollutant deposition gradient for British heather moorlands. Nitrogen deposition is associated with distinct changes in plant community structure, including reduced bryophyte and vascular plant species richness, and changes in the frequency of many species. Notable results include positive correlation with nitrogen for the invasive bryophyte Campylopus introflexus and negative correlation for the pollution-sensitive Hylocomium splendens and Pleurozium schreberi. Higher nitrogen deposition is associated with increased plant foliar N in a dwarf shrub and a bryophyte, increased extractable litter N, and reduced activity of the enzyme phenol oxidase. Although gradient study results cannot prove causation it is clear that Nitrogen deposition exerts a widespread impact on the ecology and biogeochemistry of heather moorlands. Bioindicators can be used to evaluate exposure and impacts, a promising approach could combine plant species richness and litter nitrogen analyses.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Dise
ISSN: 1470160X
Additional Keywords: ammonium,bioindication, biomonitoring, heathland, moorland, nitrogen deposition
Date made live: 20 Mar 2019 17:08 +0 (UTC)

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