Quantification of Impacts of Nitrogen Deposition on Forest Ecosystem Services in Europe

W. de Vries, M. Posch, G.J. Reinds, J.P. Hettelingh

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic

3 Citations (Scopus)


Important forest ecosystem services are the provision of a habitat for a diversity of plants and wildlife (habitat service), pollutant filtering relevant for an adequate water quality (regulating service) and wood production with the related carbon (C) storage (provisioning/regulating service). Nitrogen (N) deposition affects these ecosystem services as it has an impact on: (i) the habitat for wild plants, reducing plant species diversity, (ii) water/soil quality by its impact on acidity (pH) and on the soil accumulation and leaching of N as nitrate, aluminium (Al) and metals to ground water and surface water and (iii) net primary production and C sequestration. In this chapter, we describe the application of the Very Simple Dynamic (VSD) model, extended with relationships between nitrogen (N) deposition and greenhouse gas emissions, on a European-wide scale to quantify the impact of N deposition on these forest ecosystem services. This includes: (i) potential impacts of N deposition on plant species diversity in terms of excess N deposition compared to critical loads for N, (ii) excess nitrate (NO3) and Al concentrations in leachate to groundwater and surface water compared to critical limits, (iii) soil acidification, in terms of the depletion of the pools of base cations (BC) and Al, and (iv) C sequestration and related emissions of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4). Results show that the N deposition reduction measures that have been taken since 1980 have led to a reduction between 10 and 15 % in the areas exceeding critical N loads and critical limits for NO3 and Al in groundwater or surface water, but the estimated CO2 uptake is nearly 20 % lower under a reduced N deposition scenario as compared to a constant 1980 N deposition scenario. The N induced N2O emissions however counteract the N induced C sequestration.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNitrogen Deposition, Critical Loads and Biodiversity
EditorsM.A. Sutton, K.E. Mason, L.J. Sheppard, H. Sverdrup, R. Haeuber, W.K. Hicks
Place of PublicationDordrecht
Number of pages535
ISBN (Print)9789400779389
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Acidification
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Critical limits
  • Critical loads
  • Ecosystem services
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Nitrogen
  • Plant species diversity


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