Defra - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Science Search

Science and Research Projects

Return to Science Search homepage   Return to Project List

The UNECE International Co Operative Programme on Vegetation- New Contract - AQ0810

Description
The International Cooperative Programme on Effects of Air Pollution on Natural Vegetation and Crops (ICP Vegetation) was established in the late 1980s, initially with the aim to assess the impacts of air pollutants on crops, but in later years also on (semi-)natural vegetation. The ICP Vegetation is led by the UK and has its Coordination Centre at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology Bangor (CEH Bangor). The ICP Vegetation is one of seven ICPs and Task Forces that report to the Working Group on Effects of the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP Convention) on the effects of atmospheric pollutants on different components of the environment (e.g. forests, fresh waters, materials) and health in Europe and North-America. The Convention provides the essential framework for controlling and reducing damage to human health and the environment caused by transboundary air pollution. So far, eight international Protocols have been drafted by the Convention to deal with major long-range air pollution problems.

In recent years, the ICP Vegetation has focussed on two air pollution problems of particular importance: quantifying the risks to vegetation posed by ozone pollution and the atmospheric deposition of heavy metals to vegetation. More recently the combined risk to vegetation of ozone and nitrogen pollution and the atmospheric deposition of nitrogen to vegetation are being considered by the programme. High concentrations of ozone are formed on warm and sunny days (nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds from vehicle emissions and fossil-fuel combustion react to form ozone) and currently the concentrations of ozone in the atmosphere across Europe are regularly exceeding levels that are predicted to result in adverse effects on vegetation (e.g. crop yield losses, visible leaf injury). During the last decade, the ICP Vegetation has been monitoring the effects of ambient ozone pollution on selected sensitive vegetation by conducting biomonitoring experiments across Europe. Ozone injury has been detected at every site in the network, however, this data has yet to be analysed for spatial and temporal trends in relation to atmospheric ozone concentrations and its uptake by vegetation. Additional country-specific sources of data exist such as surveys for ozone injury and these, together with carefully designed and coordinated experiments at selected ICP Vegetation biomonitoring sites in 2006 [deleted: and 2007], will be used to produce a report on the evidence for effects of current ambient ozone in Europe. The main emphasis of the report will be on effects on crops, but effects on other vegetation types will be included where appropriate.

The current ozone climate of Europe has the potential to damage many species of (semi-)natural vegetation leading to loss of vitality and possibly of biodiversity in some of our most important ecosystems. In the previous contract, a first-stage modelling method was developed for predicting the ozone sensitivity of communities of (semi-)natural vegetation based on ecological information (‘Ellenberg values’) and data on the abundance of species within a community. This method works well for vegetation found in North-West Europe, but needs further development for application to other regions of Europe. Since many regions of Europe have (semi-) natural vegetation communities exposed to both ozone and enhanced nitrogen deposition, the combined effect of both stresses will also be studied. In addition, a method that takes into account the uptake of ozone by vegetation will be used to develop a risk assessment for managed pasture, including ozone effects on both quantity and quality.

With respect to deposition of heavy metals to vegetation, the ICP Vegetation will collate data on the concentration of ten heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, iron, lead, mercury, nickel, vanadium, zinc) in naturally growing mosses collected from over 7,000 sites in 32 European in 2005/6. The heavy metals in mosses survey was originally established in 1980 in Sweden and Denmark and has, since then, been repeated at five-yearly intervals with an increasing number of European countries participating. The technique of moss analysis provides a surrogate measure of heavy metal deposition from the atmosphere to vegetation, and is easier and cheaper than conventional rain analysis.

During the 2005/6 moss survey, analysis of the nitrogen concentration in mosses will be included for the first time in ca. half of the participating 35 European countries. These data will be compared with nitrogen critical load exceedance. In addition, European maps of exceedance of nitrogen critical loads will be produced for specific vegetation types together with the development of a meta-database describing national surveys of nitrogen impacts on vegetation.

This project is a joint effort between the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (Bangor and Lancaster), the Stockholm Environment Institute,York and Imperial College, Ascot. Each institute brings its own expertise to address the aims of the project.
Objective
1. To disseminate to Defra, the LRTAP Convention and the public, information on the progress of the work programmes of the ICP Vegetation, and to organise the annual Task Force Meeting. [WP1]

2. To liaise with other bodies within the LRTAP Convention such as ICP Forests, ICP Modelling and Mapping, EMEP and TFIAM in the revision of the Gothenburg and Aarhus Protocols. [WP1]

3. To collate and analyse data on the evidence for current effects of ambient ozone on vegetation in the ECE region including conducting experiments at selected ICP Vegetation sites in 2006, 2007 and 2008. [WP2]

4. To quantify the risk of ozone effects on (semi-)natural vegetation in Europe, including the modifying influence of nitrogen. [WP3]

5. To produce a flux-based assessment of the risk of damage to managed pasture in Europe [WP3]

6. To collate quality assured data on the concentration in mosses of ten heavy metals across Europe (2005/6) and to disseminate the results as maps (EMEP 50 km x 50 km grid) within a glossy report [WP4]

7. To analyse the temporal trends of heavy metals in European mosses between 1990-2005. [WP4]

8. To collate data on the nitrogen concentration in mosses in selected European countries and to report the results. [WP4]

9. To assess the evidence for the impacts of nitrogen on vegetation in areas of Europe with high N deposition. [OWP1]

10. To analyse spatial trends in the nitrogen concentration in mosses in selected European countries. [OWP1]
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2006

To: 2010

Cost: £596,463
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
Keywords
Air Pollution              
Environmental Protection              
Pollution              
Fields of Study
Air Quality