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As one of a number of contractors to the DEFRA Terrestrial Umbrella: Eutrophication and Acidification of Terrestrial Ecosystems, our Soil and Water Sustainability Group has an active role in:
The principal roles of Forest Research are to provide expert advice and to deliver a range of site specific environmental, soil and vegetation-related parameters and data-sets required for the evaluation of the Critical Loads methodology. This evaluation includes the testing and calibration of process-based dynamic models of soil chemistry.
The data-sets supplied are based upon measurements made in the UK plots within the EC and UNECE-ICP (Forests) Intensive Forest Health Monitoring Network (Level II) which were established in 1994-5. Most data-sets are available from 1996 and include:
Additional measurements have been made where required, including litter chemistry and soil solution DOC.
Critical load exceedance maps for nutrient nitrogen and acidity have been amended to account for forest management activities (thinning, harvesting and fertilisation) that can affect nitrogen and base cation removal or addition. This process has involved updating the uptake term in the Simple Mass Balance Equation based on growth estimates and new nutrient concentration measurements have been made across the Level II network. Managed and unmanaged woodland has been mapped separately by combining three woodland cover maps from different sources. The managed woodland category has been further categorised into conifer and broadleaf woodland to enable critical load exceedances to defined receptors for each woodland type to be mapped.
Final report (PDF-636K)
A significant proportion of UK forests’ nutrient needs come from atmospheric sources. Nitrogen is the main nutrient supplied and, on some sites, ‘saturation’ is possible. Detrimental effects of excess nitrogen include water pollution, nutrient imbalance, shoot/root imbalance and susceptibility to frost and other stresses. The effects of excess nitrogen on the forest ecosystem have been studied:
To date, the evidence for damage is equivocal, with some studies showing saturation while others suggest that excess nitrogen causes no damage to the soil.
The participation of Forest Research within the Terrestrial Umbrella provides a basis for an extension of this detailed, long-term environmental data-set, to include additional sites, species and measurements. An on-going process of comparing observed temporal and spatial trends in the principal indicators of ecosystem damage and recovery with outputs from dynamic models will enable the effectiveness of emissions control policies to be monitored and the success of alternative policies to be predicted.
Terrestrial Umbrella: Eutrophication and Acidification of Terrestrial Ecosystems – Final Report (PDF-636K)
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