Metrics for evaluating the ecological benefits of decreased nitrogen deposition

Rowe, E. C. and Jones, L. and Dise, N. B. and Evans, C. D. and Mills, G. and Hall, J. and Stevens, Carly J. and Mitchell, R. J. and Field, C. and Caporn, S. J. M. and Helliwell, R. C. and Britton, A. J. and Sutton, M. A. and Payne, R. J. and Vieno, M. and Dore, A. J. and Emmett, B. A. (2017) Metrics for evaluating the ecological benefits of decreased nitrogen deposition. Biological Conservation, 212 (Part B). pp. 454-463. ISSN 0006-3207

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Abstract

Abstract Atmospheric pollution by reactive nitrogen (N) can have profound effects on ecosystem functioning and biodiversity. Numerous mechanisms are involved, and response times vary among habitats and species. This complex picture can make it difficult to convey the benefits of controlling N pollution to policy developers and the public. In this study we evaluate pressure, midpoint, and endpoint metrics for N pollution, considering those currently in use and proposing some improved metrics. Pressure metrics that use the concept of a critical load (CL) are useful, and we propose a new integrated measure of cumulative exposure above the CL that allows for different response times in different habitats. Biodiversity endpoint metrics depend greatly on societal values and priorities and so are inevitably somewhat subjective. Species richness is readily understood, but biodiversity metrics based on habitat suitability for particular taxa may better reflect the priorities of nature conservation specialists. Midpoint metrics indicate progress towards desired endpoints – the most promising are those based on empirical evidence. Moss tissue N enrichment is responsive to lower N deposition rates, and we propose a new Moss Enrichment Index (MEI) based on species-specific ranges of tissue N content. At higher N deposition rates, mineral N leaching is an appropriate midpoint indicator. Biogeochemical models can also be used to derive midpoint metrics which illustrate the large variation in potential response times among ecosystem components. Metrics have an important role in encouraging progress towards reducing pollution, and need to be chosen accordingly.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Biological Conservation
Additional Information:
This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Biological Conservation. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Biological Conservation, 212, Part B, 2017 DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2016.11.022
Uncontrolled Keywords:
/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/2300/2309
Subjects:
ID Code:
83348
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
16 Dec 2016 16:40
Refereed?:
Yes
Published?:
Published
Last Modified:
27 Sep 2020 03:38