A review and application of the evidence for nitrogen impacts on ecosystem services

L. Jones*, A. Provins, M. Holland, G. Mills, F. Hayes, B. Emmett, J. Hall, L. Sheppard, R. Smith, M. Sutton, K. Hicks, M. Ashmore, R. Haines-Young, L. Harper-Simmonds

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Levels of reactive nitrogen (N) in the atmosphere have declined by around 25% in Europe since 1990. Ecosystem services provide a framework for valuing N impacts on the environment, and this study provides a synthesis of evidence for atmospheric N deposition effects on ecosystem services. We estimate the marginal economic value of the decline in N deposition on six ecosystem services in the UK. This decline resulted in a net benefit (Equivalent Annual Value) of 65m (5m to 123m, 95% CI). There was a cost (loss of value) for provisioning services: timber and livestock production of -6.2m (-3.5m to -9.2m, 95% CI). There was a cost for CO2 sequestration and a benefit for N2O emissions which combined amounted to a cost for greenhouse gas regulation of -15.7m (-4.5m to -30.6m). However, there were benefits for the cultural services of recreational fishing and appreciation of biodiversity, which amounted to 87.7m (13.1m to 163.0m), outweighing costs to provisioning and regulating services. Knowledge gaps in both the under-pinning science and in the value-transfer evidence prevent economic valuation of many services, particularly for cultural services, providing only a partial picture of N impacts which may underestimate the benefits of reducing N deposition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-88
Number of pages13
JournalEcosystem Services
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014


  • Air pollution
  • Biodiversity
  • Ecosystem function
  • Impact pathway
  • Policy
  • Valuation

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