Developing an indicator-modelling approach to forecast changes in nitrogen critical load exceedance across Europe arising from agricultural reform

Jones, M.L.M.; Norris, D.; Hall, J.; Petit, S.. 2011 Developing an indicator-modelling approach to forecast changes in nitrogen critical load exceedance across Europe arising from agricultural reform. Ecological Indicators, 11 (1). 16-26.

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Atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition above the critical load causes eutrophication with adverse impacts on biodiversity. Average Accumulated critical load Exceedance (AAE) is a measure of the amount of critical load exceedance and the area of habitat which is affected, and has been adopted in Europe as a pressure indicator for biodiversity. In Europe, AAE is calculated by the Coordination Centre for Effects (CCE) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe based on modelled nitrogen deposition and country-level reporting of critical load thresholds and ecosystem area. Due to differences in country-level reporting, AAE values for semi-natural habitats may show large differences across Europe. This paper therefore describes the development of a simpler approach to the modelling of habitat eutrophication. The eutrophication indicator model is applicable to all habitats for which empirical critical loads for nutrient nitrogen have been defined and is easily configured to assess impacts of modelled policies or scenarios on AAE. Outputs from the model showed a high correlation with published AAE data (R2 = 0.80) and replicated broad spatial patterns in AAE, but under-estimated actual values by a factor of 2.5. This variation was traced primarily to the use of habitat-specific nitrogen deposition by the CCE which calculates higher nitrogen deposition to forest areas, but also to differences between countries in the critical load thresholds used and the areas of sensitive ecosystems reported. Sensitivity testing showed that exceedance calculations were particularly sensitive to the critical load threshold used, since nitrogen deposition across Europe lies in the middle of most critical load ranges. The indicator model was used to forecast AAE under two scenarios: socio-economic changes under a business as usual scenario to 2025, and the additional effect of agricultural reform where both direct support to farmers and market support were removed. Ammonia emissions showed a net decrease by 2025, with strong regional differentiation. Emissions increased in former Soviet bloc countries and decreased mainly in south west Europe and Finland. Agricultural reform had little additional impact on ammonia emissions. AAE was forecast to decrease by 49% by 2025, due mainly to reductions in emissions of oxidised N from industry and transport, independent of agricultural reform. However, as oxidised N decreases, the relative contribution of N from agricultural sources will increase, and policy measures which reduce ammonia emissions will have increasing relevance for reducing AAE.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biodiversity > BD Topic 2 - Ecological Processes in the Environment > BD - 2.3 - Identify indicators and traits of ecosystem status ...
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Emmett
ISSN: 1470-160X
Additional Keywords: eutrophication, nitrogen deposition, CAP reform, biodiversity, ammonia emission
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 30 Sep 2011 14:13 +0 (UTC)

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