Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)

Research article2017Peer reviewed

Long-term sulphate and inorganic nitrogen mass balance budgets in European ICP Integrated Monitoring catchments (1990-2012)

Vuorenmaa, Jussi; Augustaitis, Algirdas; Beudert, Burkhard; Clarke, Nicholas; de Wit, Heleen A.; Dirnbock, Thomas; Frey, Jane; Forsius, Martin; Indriksone, Iveta; Kleemola, Sirpa; Kobler, Johannes; Kram, Pavel; Lindroos, Antti-Jussi; Lundin, Lars; Ruoho-Airola, Tuija; Ukonmaanaho, Liisa; Vana, Milan


Empirical evidence based on integrated environmental monitoring including physical, chemical and biological variables is essential for evaluating the ecosystem benefits of costly emission reduction policies. The international multidisciplinary ICP IM (International Cooperative Programme on Integrated Monitoring of Air Pollution Effects on Ecosystems) programme studies the integrated effects of air pollution and climate change on ecosystems in unmanaged and calibrated forested catchments. We calculated site-specific annual input-output budgets for sulphate (SO4) and total inorganic nitrogen (TIN=NO3N + NH4-N) for 17 European ICP IM sites in 1990-2012. Temporal trends for input (deposition) and output (runoff water) fluxes and the net retention/net release of SO4 and TIN were also analysed. Large differences in the input and output fluxes of SO4 and TIN reflect important gradients of air pollution effects in Europe, with the highest deposition and runoff water fluxes at IM sites located in southern Scandinavia and in parts of Central and Eastern Europe and the lowest fluxes at more remote sites in northern European regions. A significant decrease in the total (wet + dry) deposition of non-marine SO4 and bulk deposition of TIN was found at 90% and 65% of the sites, respectively. Output fluxes of non-marine SO4 in runoff decreased significantly at 65% of the sites, indicating positive effects of the international emission abatement actions in Europe during the last 20 years. Catchments retained SO4 in the early and mid 1990s, but this shifted towards a net release in the late 1990s, which may be due to the mobilization of legacy S pools accumulated during times of high atmospheric SO4 deposition. Despite decreased deposition, TIN output fluxes and retention rates showed a mixed response with both decreasing (9 sites) and increasing (8 sites) trend slopes, and trends were rarely significant. In general, TIN was strongly retained in the catchments not affected by natural disturbances. The long-term annual variation in net releases for SO4 was explained by variations in runoff and SO4 concentrations in deposition, while a variation in TIN concentrations in runoff was mostly associated with a variation of the TIN retention rate in catchments. The net release of SO4 from forest soils may delay the recovery from acidification for surface waters and the continued enrichment of nitrogen in catchment soils poses a threat to terrestrial biodiversity and may ultimately lead to a higher TIN runoff through N-saturation. Continued monitoring and further evaluations of mass balance budgets are thus needed. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Sulphur; Nitrogen; Mass balance; Retention; Net release; Trends

Published in

Ecological Indicators
2017, Volume: 76, pages: 15-29

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG13 Climate action
    SDG15 Life on land

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences

    Publication identifier


    Permanent link to this page (URI)