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Managing nitrogen in relation to key societal threats
Jana Moldanová, IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute Ltd,
Peringe Grennfelt, IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute Ltd,
Åsa Jonsson, IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute,
David Simpson, Norwegian Meteorological Institute,
Till Spranger, Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety,
Wenche Aas, NILU, Norwegian Institute for Air Research,
John Munthe, IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute,
Ari Rabl, ARMINES/Ecoles des Mines de Paris
Atmospheric emissions of nitrogen oxides and ammonia are contributing to a number of negative effects to human health and ecosystems. These effects include both effects of the primary emissions but more importantly through actions of secondary pollutants such as ground level ozone (O3) and secondary particulate matter (PM).
The main air pollution effects include effects of nitrogen dioxide to human health, effects from ground level ozone to human health and vegetation and effects from particulate ammonium and nitrate to human health. There is a difficulty of ascribing health effects to NO2 per se at ambient levels rather than considering NO2 as a surrogate for a traffic-derived air pollution mixture.
The chapter gives a brief review of our current understanding of the mechanisms and processes regarding N-containing air pollutants and their effects on human health, vegetation (effects of reactive nitrogen on ecosystems through eutrophication and acidification is treated in Dise et al., 2011; Velthof et al., 2011, Chapters 20 and 21, this volume) and materials. It presents historical development, current situation and outlines future perspectives of reactive nitrogen related air pollution and its effects in Europe in relation to national and EU legislation on emission limitation and air quality control.
Key findings/state of knowledge
In the EU-27 countries, 60% of the population lives in areas where the annual EU limit value of NO2 is exceeded. Air quality standards for nitrogen dioxide are exceeded mainly in urban areas. Concentrations have decreased since 1990, although the downward trends have been smaller or even disappeared after 2000.
Observations of atmospheric reactive nitrogen (Nr) deposition are severely restricted in spatial extent and type. The chain of processes leading to atmospheric deposition emissions, atmospheric dispersion, chemical transformation and eventual loss from the atmosphere is extremely complex and therefore currently, observations can only address part of this chain.
Modelling provides a way of estimating atmospheric transport and deposition of Nr at the European scale. A description of the different model types is provided.
Current deposition estimates from models are compared with observations from European air chemistry monitoring networks.
The main focus of the chapter is at the European scale; however, both local variability and and intercontinental Nr transfers are also addressed.
Key findings/state of knowledge
Atmospheric deposition is a major input of Nr for European terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems as well as coastal sea areas.
Models are key tools to integrate our understanding of atmospheric chemistry and transport, and are essential for estimating the spatial distribution of deposition, and to support the formulation of air pollution control strategies.
Our knowledge of the reliability of models for deposition estimates is, however, limited, since we have so few observational constraints on many key parameters.
Total Nr deposition estimates cannot be directly assessed because of a lack of measurements, especially of the Nr dry deposition component. Differences among European regional models can be significant, however, e.g. 30% in some areas, and substantially more than this for specific locations.
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