Science Daily: Nitrogen pollution from agriculture and fossil fuels is known to be seriously damaging grasslands in the
When Carly Stevens finished her PhD in 2004, her findings were published in Science. Stevens had found the first evidence that nitrogen deposition from the atmosphere was depleting numbers of plant species in British grasslands.…
…The approach to protecting wildlife from nitrogen pollution is to calculate critical load values for different ecosystems – how much nitrogen a system can accumulate every year before damage occurs. Infertile habitats, like heathlands and bogs, are the most vulnerable. But Stevens’ research showed that species are being lost even where deposition is ‘beneath’ the critical load for grasslands.
“The species aren’t going extinct,” Stevens stresses, “but if this is happening everywhere, we are moving towards much more species-poor grasslands, and we have no idea what the knock-on effects of that will be.”
So last year, Stevens, her UK colleagues David Gowing, Nancy Dise and Owen Mountford, and a team of experts from Germany, the Netherlands and France, embarked on a Europe wide project, part of the European Science Foundation (ESF) EuroDIVERSITY Programme. The project’s aim is to see if the effects are the same on a wider range of grasslands, across the entire Atlantic side of
…The team has started experiments to see if they can establish how extra nitrogen has these effects. They hope to predict what will happen in the future. “Nitrogen deposition in
What should be done? “We are hoping for a clear signal that you can maintain species richness [under nitrogen deposition] by biomass stripping,” says Gowing. That means extra mowing and grazing. “If we find one, we can offer a management strategy for nature conservation.”...