Determination and mapping of critical loads for sulphur and nitrogen and critical levels for ozone in Ireland

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Long-range transboundary air pollution and its potential effects on the environment have been a major concern in Europe since the late 1960s. Links between anthropogenic air emissions and ecosystem degradation, throughout Europe and America, have been clearly established. It is well known that emissions can travel several hundred or even thousands of kilometers before deposition and potential damage occur. Initial efforts to reduce the extent of this possible damage led to national and international legislation aimed at controlling emissions. However, this legislation was generally deficient in so far as it was not established on biological or ecological principles. Instead, fixed percentage emission reductions were agreed, irrespective of spatial variation in deposition intensity and ecosystem sensitivity.

Emphasis on a cost-effective strategy, based on scientific criteria, has led to the development of the critical loads concept. The concept focuses on the link between emissions and ecosystem response. In principle, it indicates how much pollution an ecosystem can tolerate before its integrity is compromised. The critical load of an ecosystem is determined by the sensitivity of the system. It is necessary to consider the long-term pollutant load, as most effects appear as a result of accumulated exposure.

The critical load concept has its origins in the ?target loading? concept proposed by Canadian scientists during negotiations with the USA on transboundary pollution control in the early 1980s (Longhurst, 1991). Shortly after this, the concept was further developed in Scandinavia, where the term ?critical load? was used (Nilsson and Grennfelt, 1988). Critical loads differ from target loads; the critical load is an inherent property of an ecosystem, while the target load is usually based on political decisions and can be set lower or higher than the critical load, for safety reasons, in the first instance, or economic reasons, in the second instance (Nilsson and Grennfelt, 1988).

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution1 (LRTAP), which was signed in 1979 and came into force in 1983, recognizes that research should be conducted into the effects of atmospheric pollution on the environment. The critical loads/levels2 approach is a well-established element of the work programme of the Convention. The work programme includes the production of maps of critical loads, critical levels and their exceedances as a basis for developing effects-based abatement strategies for transboundary air pollutants.

Under the Convention, a Task Force on Mapping (TFM) was established to develop methods to compute and map the sensitivity of ecosystems to air pollution and their exceedances. The TFM have produced and updated the ?Manual on Methodologies and Criteria for Mapping Critical Levels/Loads and Geographical Areas where they are Exceeded? (UBA Berlin, 1993; Werner and Spranger, 1996). This manual provides the scientific basis for determining and mapping critical loads on a national scale, and mapping areas where air pollution values exceed critical loads.

In order to assure the co-ordination of national mapping activities, the Parties to the Convention were invited to establish National Focal Centres (NFCs). The Irish NFC is coordinated by Michael McGettigan of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). To provide scientific and technical assistance to the TFM and the NFCs, a Co-ordination Centre for Effects3 (CCE) was established. The CCE produces integrated European critical loads and exceedance maps from data supplied by individual countries and deposition data supplied by the Co-operative Programme for Monitoring and Evaluation of the Long-Range Transmission of Air Pollutants in Europe (EMEP). To-date, five ?Status Reports? on mapping critical loads for Europe have been published by the CCE (Hettelingh et al., 1991; Downing et al., 1993; Posch et al., 1995; Posch et al., 1997; Posch et al., 1999).

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Contact Information for This Resource

Prof. E.P. Farrell
Forest Ecosystem Research Group, UCD

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Attachment Name and Download Link
Att 1    R&D_94-99_Farrell_Critical_Loads_prn.pdf   (3.54 Mb)
Att 2    R&D_94-99_Farrell_Critical_Loads_syn.pdf   (0.77 Mb)
Att 3    R&D_94-99_Farrell_Critical_Loads-Lit_Review_prn.pdf   (0.43 Mb)

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Author(s)Farrell, E.
Title Of WebsiteSecure Archive For Environmental Research Data
Publication InformationDetermination and mapping of critical loads for sulphur and nitrogen and critical levels for ozone in Ireland
Name of OrganisationEnvironmental Protection Agency Ireland
Electronic Address or URL
Unique Identifierb931d553-2076-102f-a0a4-f81fb11d7d1c
Date of AccessLast Updated on SAFER: 2023-10-01

An example of this citation in proper usage:

Farrell, E.   "Determination and mapping of critical loads for sulphur and nitrogen and critical levels for ozone in Ireland". Associated datasets and digitial information objects connected to this resource are available at: Secure Archive For Environmental Research Data (SAFER) managed by Environmental Protection Agency Ireland (Last Accessed: 2023-10-01)


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Access Information For This Resource

SAFER-Data Display URL
Resource KeywordsCritical Loads, Sulphur, Nitrogen, Ozone
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project ThemeAir Quality
Resource Availability: Any User Can Download Files From This Resource
Limitations on the use of this ResourceAny attached datasets, data files, or information objects can be downloaded for further use in scientific applications under the condition that the source is properly quoted and cited in published papers, journals, websites, presentations, books, etc. Before downloading, users must agree to the "Conditions of Download and Access" from SAFER-Data. These appear before download. Users of the data should also communicate with the original authors/owners of this resource if they are uncertain about any aspect of the data or information provided before further usage.
Number of Attached Files (Publicly and Openly Available for Download): 3
Project Start Date Monday 18th January 1999 (18-01-1999)
Earliest Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Monday 18th January 1999 (18-01-1999)
Most Recent Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Monday 15th January 2001 (15-01-2001)
Published on SAFERThursday 25th August 2011 (25-08-2011)
Date of Last EditThursday 25th August 2011 at 16:02:10 (25-08-2011)
Datasets or Files Updated On Thursday 25th August 2011 at 16:02:10 (25-08-2011)

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Description of Geographical Characteristics of This Project or Dataset
Data was gathered from all over Ireland in order to give an accurate representation of the air around the country.

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Part-funded by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Environmental Monitoring R&D Sub-programme of the Operational Programme for Environmental Services. The authors gratefully acknowledge all help received during the project.
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