CEH Atmospheric Chemistry and Effects

Lead Research Organisation: NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology


Quantify biosphere atmosphere-exchange in major biomes including the urban environment, and  improve process-based understanding of biosphere-atmosphere exchange. Integrate measurements, data, models and incorporate new understanding of complex interactions between drivers and support policies to mitigate atmospheric pollutants and GHG sources, and enhance GHG sinks.


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Chiwa M (2018) Long-term interactive effects of N addition with P and K availability on N status of Sphagnum. in Environmental pollution (Barking, Essex : 1987)

Description The core science of this national capability grant aims to improve the process-based understanding of biosphere-atmosphere exchange, with a holistic focus on the full chain from emissions to deposition and effects. This is achieved by integrating measurements, data, models and incorporating new understanding of complex interactions between drivers. Results of this research support policies to mitigate atmospheric pollutants and GHG sources, and enhance GHG sinks.

We are achieving these objectives through utilising flagship monitoring sites (e.g. Auchencorth Moss) and national-scale monitoring networks (e.g. GHG Flux Network) generate long-term, high frequency time series of atmospheric composition change and its key drivers. Based on measurements and field experiments (e.g. Whim Bog), state-of-the-art process-based models are developed and applied to quantify emissions, atmospheric dispersion and environmental fate of key air pollutants and GHGs. This includes quantifying the deposition/removal of pollutants from the atmosphere and investigating how changes in meteorology, climate and atmospheric composition impact on biodiversity and biogeochemical cycling of macro- and micronutrients in natural and managed ecosystems.

Key findings realised are, for example:
- the development of novel methods to monitor ambient ammonia concentrations in air using low-cost measurement devices
- novel flux methods developed in the UK supporting the identification of cooking aerosols as a key component of ambient aerosol concentrations over a Chinese Megacity in Beijing
- insights into atmospheric composition change and the contribution of secondary inorganic aerosol to PM2.5 concentrations in the UK, using both Supersite monitoring and atmospheric modelling techniques.
- an operational network across the UK to quantify emissions of greenhouse gas fluxes, contributing to a better understanding of the trends in UK emissions
- the quantification of the effects of long-term exposure of sensitive habitats to deposition of reactive nitrogen through the Whim Bog field experiment

These findings provide direct support for the design of policies to improve air quality and track changes in greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change.
Exploitation Route As one key example, the recently launched UK Clean Air Strategy, which has a strong focus on addressing ammonia emissions from agriculture, incorporates many of the findings underpinned by the national capability provided by this grant, including both data from observations and modelling, as well as the insights into critical loads and effects of reactive nitrogen deposition on different habitats. In a similar way, the Scottish Government has taken an interest in the development of nitrogen budgets to support improvements in nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) and to reduce reactive nitrogen pollution from agricultural production. Data on UK greenhouse gas fluxes, alongside CWI funded research complementing this grant, are directly feeding into the IPCC process and underpin the UK's statutory reporting to UNFCCC. Finally, the methods developed within this grant inform the application of novel approaches to quantify atmospheric composition changes and feed into ODA activities overseas, maintaining a UK science leadership in many areas of biosphere-atmosphere exchange research.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://www.auchencorth.ceh.ac.uk/
Description Findings from this grant have, for example, contributed to policy development in the area of agricultural emissions and air quality: - UK Clean Air Strategy launched in 2018 comprises several references to research underpinned by this grant on ammonia emissions and mitigation options - United Nations UNEA event has side events focusing on global nutrient management, for which methodological work complemented by this grant (and previous NC funding) has laid the foundations - Scottish Government review of the Clean Air for Scotland strategy has one element focusing on ammonia emissions from agriculture, including improving nitrogen use efficiency as a means to reduce air and water pollution, eutrophication and acidification to protect human health and vulnerable ecosystems.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

Description Contributing to written evidence submitted by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology for the Environmental Audit Committee Nitrates Inquiry
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
Description Membership in Air Quality Expert Group - Dr. Eiko Nemitz
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
URL https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/library/aqeg/
Description Response to the Consultation on the Draft UK Clean Air Strategy
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
URL https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/clean-air-strategy-2019
Description National Media Apperances - High profile apperances on national TV and Radio programmes to explain the issue of atmospheric ammonia (NH3) pollution from rural sources 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact CEH's research on ammonia (NH3) has led to high profile national media appearances to explain the impact of rural emissions sources, primarily from farming and manure management on air quality and its impact on the environment including eutrophication of ecosystems leading to loss of biodiversity. Ammonia also contributes to particulate matter, reducing air quality which can cause health problems including heart diseases. These media appearances include Profs David Fowler and Mark Sutton appearing on the BBC Countryfile TV show (in 2017 and 2018, respectively), and Mark Sutton explaining the issues on the Radio 4 Costing The Earth programme in 2019.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018,2019
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bhn36g
Description Visit by Shirley-Anne Somerville, Scottish Government Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science along with Joanna Drewitt, Scottish Government Science Adviser 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact CEH were delighted to host Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Scottish Government Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science along with Joanna Drewitt, Scottish Government Science Adviser, on the 5th June 2018. The morning visit highlighting the wide range of science undertaken at Auchencorth was led by, Stefan Reis (CEH Atmospheric Chemistry and Effects Science Area Head) and Tim Wheeler (NERC Director of Science and Innovation). It was a beautiful sunny day on the Moss, and as people celebrated World Environment Day, the air quality, climate and ecosystem research at Auchencorth Moss was discussed in relation to policy and environmental issues.
Presentations were made to the minister on various subjects, over delicious cakes and tea at Springfield farm, summarised below. If you would like further information please contact the following-
- Introduction to the history of Auchencorth and its role for environmental science by Dr Christine Braban
- Whim Ammonia Facility and nitrogen effects by Dr Matt Jones
- Carbon in Auchencorth Moss hydrology by Dr Amy Pickard
- Mercury measurements by John Kentisbeer
- Ammonia and PM measurements by Dr Marsailidh Twigg
- Greenhouse gas and particle flux measurements and overseas work by Dr Eiko Nemitz
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.ceh.ac.uk/news-and-media/news/scottish-science-minister-visits-auchencorth-moss-fieldsit...