Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Nitrogen deposition poses threat to diversity of Europe's forest vegetation

Date:
December 16, 2013
Source:
Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE)
Summary:
Unless nitrogen emissions are curbed, the diversity of plant communities in Europe's forests will decrease. Atmospheric nitrogen deposition has already changed the number and richness of forest floor vegetation species in European forests over the last 20-30 years. In particular, the coverage of plant species adapted to nutrient-poor conditions has reduced. However, levels of nitrogen deposition in Finnish forests remain small compared to Southern and Central Europe.

Species found in nutrient-poor habitats, such as heather, lingonberry, crowberry and lichens in particular are sensitive to nitrogen deposition.
Credit: Hannu Nousiainen, Metla

Unless nitrogen emissions are curbed, the diversity of plant communities in Europe's forests will decrease. Atmospheric nitrogen deposition has already changed the number and richness of forest floor vegetation species in European forests over the last 20-30 years. In particular, the coverage of plant species adapted to nutrient-poor conditions has reduced. However, levels of nitrogen deposition in Finnish forests remain small compared to Southern and Central Europe.

These results will be presented as part of international research published in the journal Global Change Biology. Researchers from the Finnish Environment Institute and the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla) participated in this research, which concludes that unless nitrogen emissions are curbed, the diversity of plant communities in Europe's forests will decrease. The work involved the examination of long-term changes in vascular plant communities within a 1 300 monitoring grid covering 28 forested areas in various parts of Europe.

The number and richness of forest floor vegetation species in European forests have changed over the last 20 to 30 years, due to wet and dry deposition of atmospheric nitrogen. In particular, low-nutrient or acidic habitats are sensitive to long-term nitrogen deposition. Among such habitats, coverage of species such as heather and may lily has been reduced in many areas, in which nitrogen deposition has exceeded a certain threshold value i.e. the critical nitrogen load.

The largest changes in vegetation have occurred in Southern and Central European forests. Although deposition has not yet markedly affected species numbers within plant communities, most new species spreading into forests during the monitoring period have been types that favour nitrogen.

Finland still has a small nitrogen load

Four monitoring areas located in Finnish nature reserves were covered by the research. These areas were subject to markedly lower nitrogen deposition (0.6-1.9 kg of nitrogen per hectare per year) compared to areas subject to greater nitrogen deposition in Central Europe (10-20 kg N/ha/year) or Italy (20-30 kg N/ha/year).

Critical nitrogen loads applied in the research are based on the previously published results of long-term field research and experiments. By critical nitrogen loads, we refer to nitrogen deposition known to have harmful effects on the functions of more sensitive organisms in the ecosystem. The critical nitrogen load in boreal forests is estimated to be fairly small (5-8 kg N/ha/y), since northern forest ecosystems are highly sensitive to the effects of excess nitrogen. Such areas in Finland include nutrient-poor and dry pine forests in particular.

Although nitrogen deposition remains small in Northern Europe, even a slight rise in long-term deposition could change the competitive relationship of vascular plants by promoting the dissemination and growth of nitrogen-favouring species.

The effects of nitrogen deposition on Finland's forest vegetation can only be investigated with the assistance of a permanent environmental monitoring network. According to long-term monitoring by the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla), tree felling is still the key factor in changes to forest floor vegetation.

This monitoring reveals a reduction in lichens throughout Finland, including in unfelled forests. In Northern Finland, reindeer grazing is the key factor in lichen reduction. Slow-growing lichens in Southern Finland can also suffer due to the rapid growth of and shading by plants benefiting from nitrogen deposition.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Thomas Dirnbφck, Ulf Grandin, Markus Bernhardt-Rφmermann, Burkhardt Beudert, Roberto Canullo, Martin Forsius, Maria-Theresia Grabner, Maria Holmberg, Sirpa Kleemola, Lars Lundin, Michael Mirtl, Markus Neumann, Enrico Pompei, Maija Salemaa, Franz Starlinger, Tomasz Staszewski, Aldona Katarzyna Uziębło. Forest floor vegetation response to nitrogen deposition in Europe. Global Change Biology, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12440

Cite This Page:

Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). "Nitrogen deposition poses threat to diversity of Europe's forest vegetation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 December 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131216080427.htm>.
Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). (2013, December 16). Nitrogen deposition poses threat to diversity of Europe's forest vegetation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131216080427.htm
Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). "Nitrogen deposition poses threat to diversity of Europe's forest vegetation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131216080427.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) — He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Detroit's Money Woes Led To U.N.-Condemned Water Cutoffs

How Detroit's Money Woes Led To U.N.-Condemned Water Cutoffs

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — The United Nations says water is a human right, but should it be free? Detroit has cut off water to residents who can't pay, and the U.N. isn't happy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

3BL Media (Oct. 20, 2014) — Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-fuel Impala Video provided by 3BL
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Rhino's Death In Kenya Means Just 6 Are Left

White Rhino's Death In Kenya Means Just 6 Are Left

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — Suni, a rare northern white rhino at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, died Friday. This, as many media have pointed out, leaves people fearing extinction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins