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  • Payne et al. Frontiers 2017

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Nitrogen deposition and plant biodiversity: past, present, and future

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>10/2017
<mark>Journal</mark>Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment
Issue number8
Volume15
Number of pages6
Pages (from-to)431-436
Publication statusPublished
Early online date5/09/17
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Reactive nitrogen (N) deposition from intensive agricultural and industrial activity has been identified as the third greatest threat to global terrestrial biodiversity, after land-use and climate change. While the impacts of N deposition are widely acknowledged, their magnitude is poorly quantified. We combine N deposition models, empirical response functions, and vegetation mapping to simulate the effects of N deposition on plant species richness from 1900 to 2030, using the island of Great Britain as a case study. We find that current species richness values – when averaged across five widespread habitat types – are approximately one-third less than without N deposition. Our results suggest that currently expected reductions in emissions will achieve no more than modest increases in species richness by 2030, and that emissions cuts based on habitat-specific “critical loads” may be an inefficient approach to managing N deposition for the protection of plant biodiversity. The effects of N deposition on biodiversity are severe and are unlikely to be quickly reversed.

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Copyright by the Ecological Society of America