The Critical Loads and Levels Approach for Nitrogen

T.A. Clair, T. Blett, J. Aherne, H.F. van Dobben

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

1 Citation (Scopus)


This chapter reports the findings of a Working Group on how atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition affects both terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity. Regional and global scale impacts on biodiversity are addressed, together with potential indicators. Key conclusions are that: the rates of loss in biodiversity are greatest at the lowest and initial stages of N deposition increase; changes in species compositions are related to the relative amounts of N, carbon (C) and phosphorus (P) in the plant soil system; enhanced N inputs have implications for C cycling; N deposition is known to be having adverse effects on European and North American vegetation composition; very little is known about tropical ecosystem responses, while tropical ecosystems are major biodiversity hotspots and are increasingly recipients of very high N deposition rates; N deposition alters forest fungi and mycorrhyzal relations with plants; the rapid response of forest fungi and arthropods makes them good indicators of change; predictive tools (models) that address ecosystem scale processes are necessary to address complex drivers and responses, including the integration of N deposition, climate change and land use effects; criteria can be identified for projecting sensitivity of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems to N deposition. Future research and policy-relevant recommendations are identified.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNitrogen Deposition, Critical Loads and Biodiversity
EditorsMark A. Sutton, Kate E. Mason, Lucy J. Sheppard, Harald Sverdrup, Richard Haeuber, W. Kevin Hicks
Place of PublicationDordrecht
ISBN (Electronic)9789400779396
ISBN (Print)9789400779389
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • critical loads
  • empirical
  • Exceedance
  • Modelling
  • nitrogen deposition


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