The impact of the Nitrates Directive on nitrogen emissions from agriculture in the EU-27 during 2000–2008

G.L. Velthof, J.P. Lesschen, J. Webb, S. Pietrzak, Z. Miatkowski, M. Pinto, J. Kros, O. Oenema

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A series of environmental policies have been implemented in the European Union (EU) to decrease nitrogen (N) emissions from agriculture. The Nitrates Directive (ND) is one of the main policies; it aims to reduce nitrate leaching from agriculture through a number of measures. A study was carried out to quantify the effects of the ND in the EU-27 on the leaching and runoff of nitrate (NO3-) to groundwater and surface waters, and on the emissions of ammonia (NH3), nitrous oxide (N2O), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and dinitrogen (N2) to the atmosphere. We formulated a scenario with and a scenario without implementation of the ND. The model MITERRA-Europe was used to calculate N emissions on a regional level in the EU-27 for the period 2000–2008. The calculated total N loss from agriculture in the EU-27 was 13 Mton N in 2008, with 53% as N2, 22% as NO3, 21% as NH3, 3% as N2O, and 1% as NOx. The N emissions and leaching in the EU-27 slightly decreased in the period 2000–2008. Total emissions in the EU in 2008 were smaller with implementation of the ND than without the ND, by 3% for NH3, 6% for N2O, 9% for NOx, and 16% for N leaching and runoff in 2008. However, regional differences were large. The lower emissions with ND were mainly due to the lower N inputs by fertilizers and manures. In conclusion, implementation of the ND decreased both N leaching losses to ground and surface waters, and gaseous emissions to the atmosphere. It is expected that the ND will result in a further decrease in N emissions in EU-27 in the near future, because the implementation of the measures for the ND is expected to become more strict.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1225-1233
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • integrated assessment
  • oxide emissions
  • pig slurry
  • soils
  • phosphorus
  • separation
  • efficiency
  • removal
  • losses
  • europe


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