Responses of forest ecosystems in Europe to decreasing nitrogen deposition

Andreas Schmitz, Tanja G.M. Sanders, Andreas Bolte, Filippo Bussotti, Thomas Dirnböck, Josep Peñuelas, Martina Pollastrini, Anne Katrin Prescher, Jordi Sardans, Arne Verstraeten, Wim de Vries

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Average nitrogen (N) deposition across Europe has declined since the 1990s. This resulted in decreased N inputs to forest ecosystems especially in Central and Western Europe where deposition levels are highest. While the impact of elevated atmospheric N deposition on forests has been receiving much attention for decades, ecosystem responses to the decline in N inputs received less attention. Here, we review observational studies reporting on trends in a number of indicators related to: Soil acidification and eutrophication, understory vegetation, tree nutrition (foliar element concentrations) as well as tree vitality and growth in response to decreasing N deposition across Europe. The reported trends were generally heterogeneous across Europe. Several studies found a limited decrease in soil solution nitrate concentrations, which is likely an ecosystem response to decreasing N deposition. There was no large-scale response in understory vegetation, tree growth, or vitality. Negative trends in foliar N concentrations are likely caused to a substantial degree by an increase in foliar mass (dilution effect). Experimental studies support the observation of a more distinct reaction of soil solution to changes in N supply compared to tree growth, tree vitality and understory vegetation. According to the most likely scenarios, further decrease of N deposition will be limited. We hypothesize that this expected reduction will not cause major responses of the parameters analyzed in this chapter. Instead, future changes might be more strongly controlled by the effects of climate change and forest management on the N pools accumulated within forest soils.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAtmospheric Nitrogen Deposition to Global Forests
Subtitle of host publicationSpatial Variation, Impacts, and Management Implications
EditorsE. Du, W. de Vries
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9780323911405
ISBN (Print)9780323998482
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


  • Air pollution
  • Emission reduction
  • Forest monitoring
  • Nitrogen deposition
  • Recovery


Dive into the research topics of 'Responses of forest ecosystems in Europe to decreasing nitrogen deposition'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this