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Nitrogen in the air is one of the greatest threats to our wild plants, lichens and fungi – yet few people have even heard about it.
Plantlife is working with governments, landowners and other partners to tackle its devastating impacts.
The evidence is clear. Nitrogen has built up in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels and intensive farming. Transport, power stations, industry, farm fertilisers and livestock are all major sources of nitrogen oxides and ammonia emissions.
Deposited directly from the air and in rain, this nitrogen is a form of pollution, creating acidic conditions and causing direct damage to our wild plants, lichens and fungi.
Over two thirds of our wild flowers, plants like Harebell Campanula rotundifolia and Betony Betonica officinalis require low or medium levels of nitrogen. Only robust species, such as Nettle Urtica dioica, Cleavers Galium aparine and Hemlock Conium maculatum thrive in soils with high nitrogen levels.
Species-rich grasslands, woodlands, heathlands and peat bogs are all under threat from air pollution. This even reaches remote mountain tops and the rainforest of Scotland’s west coast as they have higher levels of nitrogen-rich rainfall.
Alarmingly, 68% of sensitive habitat area in the UK has excessive levels of nitrogen – in England and Wales alone, this figure rises to more than 93% (Trends Report 2022, published on the UK-AIR website).
Reducing air pollution will have huge benefits for biodiversity as well as public health and our climate. Ammonia emissions from farming need particular attention as they have fallen so little in recent decades compared to other air pollutants.
Armed with powerful evidence and practical solutions, Plantlife is ‘talking about nitrogen’ with governments and partners across the UK to drive forward the action that is so urgently needed.
This report summarises current evidence and raises awareness of where nitrogen is coming from, the impacts on habitats, plants and fungi, and how it is recorded.
A call to protect Wales’ internationally important wild flora and fungi from air pollution. This report focuses on the less well-known issue of ammonia pollution arising from intensive farming.
This report presents the available evidence on atmospheric nitrogen deposition and its impacts on Scotland’s plants and fungi and the wildlife that depend on them.
Discover how Plantlife is working with governments to protect and restore temperate rainforest along the Atlantic coast of Britain.
Learn how you can make an impact on Scotland's new Natural Environment Bill, putting wild plants at the heart of plans for nature recovery.
A closer look at some of the headlines from the State of Nature 2023 report, and what they mean for our species and habitats in Wales.
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