A novel method to estimate the response of habitat types to nitrogen deposition

G.W.W. Wamelink*, P.W. Goedhart, H.D. Roelofsen, R. Bobbink, M. Posch, H.F. van Dobben, I. Biurrun, G. Bonari, J. Dengler, D. Dítě, E. Garbolino, J. Jansen, A.K. Jašková, J. Lenoir, T. Peterka

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Increasing nitrogen depositions adversely affect European landscapes, including habitats within the Natura2000 network. Critical loads for nitrogen deposition have been established to quantify the loss of habitat quality. When the nitrogen deposition rises above a habitat-specific critical load, the quality of the focal habitat is expected to be negatively influenced. Here, we investigate how the quality of habitat types is affected beyond the critical load. We calculated response curves for 60 terrestrial habitat types in the Netherlands to the estimated nitrogen deposition (EMEP-data). The curves for habitat types are based on the occurrence of their characteristic plant species in North-Western Europe (plot data from the European Vegetation Archive). The estimated response curves were corrected for soil type, mean annual temperature and annual precipitation. Evaluation was carried out by expert judgement, and by comparison with gradient deposition field studies. For 39 habitats the response to nitrogen deposition was judged to be reliable by five experts, while out of the 41 habitat types for which field studies were available, 25 showed a good agreement. Some of the curves showed a steep decline in quality and some a more gradual decline with increasing nitrogen deposition. We compared the response curves with both the empirical and modelled critical loads. For 41 curves, we found a decline already starting below the critical load.

Original languageEnglish
Article number123844
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2024


  • Ammonia
  • Biodiversity
  • Critical load
  • European Vegetation Archive (EVA)
  • Habitat type
  • Nitrate
  • Response curve


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