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Title: Currently legislated decreases in nitrogen deposition will yield only limited plant species recovery in European forests
Authors: Dirnböck, Andreas
Pröll, Gisela
Austnes, Kari
Beloica, Jelena
Beudert, Burkhard
Canullo, Roberto
De Marco, Alessandra
Fornasier, Maria Francesca
Futter, Martyn
Goergen, Klaus
Grandin, Ulf
Holmberg, Maria
Lindroos, Antti-Jussi
Mirtl, Michael
Neirynck, Johan
Pecka, Tomasz
Nieminen, Tiina Maileena
Nordbakken, Jørn-Frode
Posch, Maximilian
Reinds, Gert-Jan
Rowe, Edwin C.
Salemaa, Maija
Scheuschner, Thomas
Starlinger, Franz
Uziębło, Aldona K.
Valinia, Salar
Weldon, James
Wamelink, Wieger G. W.
Forsius, Martin
Keywords: LTER; forest ecosystem; air pollution; modelling; climate change; LRTAP Convention
Issue Date: 2018
Citation: Environmental Research Letters, Vol. 13, iss. 12 (2018), Art. No. 125010
Abstract: Atmospheric nitrogen (N) pollution is considered responsible for a substantial decline in plant species richness and for altered community structures in terrestrial habitats worldwide. Nitrogen affects habitats through direct toxicity, soil acidification, and in particular by favoring fast-growing species. Pressure fromNpollution is decreasing in some areas. In Europe (EU28), overall emissions ofNOx declined by more than 50% whileNH3 declined by less than 30% between the years 1990 and 2015, and further decreases may be achieved. The timescale over which these improvements will affect ecosystems is uncertain. Here we use 23 European forest research sites with high quality long-term data on deposition, climate, soil recovery, and understory vegetation to assess benefits of currently legislatedNdeposition reductions in forest understory vegetation. A dynamic soil model coupled to a statistical plant species niche model was applied with site-based climate and deposition.Weuse indicators ofNdeposition and climate warming effects such as the change in the occurrence of oligophilic, acidophilic, and cold-tolerant plant species to compare the present with projections for 2030 and 2050. The decrease inNdeposition under current legislation emission (CLE) reduction targets until 2030 is not expected to result in a release from eutrophication. Albeit the model predictions show considerable uncertainty when compared with observations, they indicate that oligophilic forest understory plant species will further decrease. This result is partially due to confounding processes related to climate effects and to major decreases in sulphur deposition and consequent recovery from soil acidification, but shows that decreases inNdeposition under CLE will most likely be insufficient to allow recovery from eutrophication.
DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aaf26b
ISSN: 1748-9326
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