(BEGIN) Biodiversity of European Grasslands - the impact of Atmospheric Nitrogen Deposition .

Lead Research Organisation: Open University
Department Name: Life, Health & Chemical Sciences


Eutrophication is perhaps the most important threat to European biodiversity. A major source of nutrients to semi-natural ecosystems is atmospheric nitrogen deposition and experiments have suggested that these nutrients may reduce species richness.However, until very recently there was no clear evidence that widespread biodiversity reduction caused by regional air pollution was actually occurring. Stevens et al. (Science, 303, 1876) changed this perception. Described as a 'milestone in global change research', the study (i) showed a dramatic decline in species richness of UK acid grasslands in relation to nitrogen (N) deposition, (ii) linked empirical with experimental research to estimate the timescale of the observed change, and (iii) provided a predictive equation to estimate species richness of similar sites based on N deposition.The current proposal brings together an interdisciplinary team of leading ecologists, biogeochemists and atmospheric chemists to develop and extend this approach. They aim to determine whether N-deposition is seriously impacting species richness on a wider scale across European grasslands and to elucidate the mechanism responsible.We plan to use a multinational and multidisciplinary approach to address the ecological processes that drive biodiversity change in the systems.


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Stevens CJ (2011) The impact of nitrogen deposition on acid grasslands in the Atlantic region of Europe. in Environmental pollution (Barking, Essex : 1987)

Description The project gathers data from grasslands across Western Europe, from Bordeaux to Bergen. It demonstrated that species richness in grassland was declining in line with the rate of atmospheric nitrogen deposition (a finding that had previously been demonstrated for UK alone.) Our results also indicate that species loss can start at deposition rates below the current "critical load" and that cumulative deposition amounts are probably as important as the prevailing rate in determining species richness.
Exploitation Route To protect biodiversity, our results allow organisations to assess the likely impact of atmospheric nitrogen deposition on grassland habitats
Sectors Environment

URL http://www.esf.org/coordinating-research/eurocores/completed-programmes/eurodiversity/projects/begin.html
Description The finding were used by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee to issue guidance on habitat management: JNCC Report 447 Collation of evidence of nitrogen impacts on vegetation in relation to UK biodiversity objectives
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services