Nature areas in the Netherlands are under pressure from a combination of nitrogen deposition and climate change. More knowledge about the influence of high nitrogen deposition on nature is very important, because the Netherlands, together with neighbouring countries, has been a hot-spot for many decades in this regard. Climate change will also have an important impact on the condition of ecosystems. This research is directed at predicting the combined effects of climate change and nitrogen deposition, with a view to improving management and policy. To this end, nature areas in other European countries with both high and low nitrogen deposition levels, and along a climate gradient, will be compared with each other.
Insight into combined effects
It is very probable that climate change has an impact on the presence and the quality of scanty grasslands in the coastal dunes as well as inland. It therefore plays an important role in the realisation of nature objectives. How these ecosystems will react to climate change depends in part on the level of the nitrogen deposition. In dry ecosystems, the availability of nitrogen and water often both constitute constraints to the productivity of the vegetation. This is why it is important to understand and quantify the combined effects of climate change and nitrogen deposition. Based on this knowledge, management and policy can be adapted in a timely manner to the possible future effects. Moreover, climate change and nitrogen deposition also have an influence on the aeolian dynamics in dune ecosystems (Aggenbach et al., 2018) and thereby also impact the biodiversity.
Focus on grasslands in dry dunes and inland
To predict how scanty grassland vegetations in the Netherlands react to the combined effects of climate change and nitrogen deposition, we will make use in this project of already existing data along a gradient with different climatological conditions and nitrogen deposition levels from other European countries. To this end, we will be collaborating with various research groups in North-West Europe.
For scanty dune grasslands on the coast, a new central dataset is being compiled from different European dune areas. In addition, we are making partial use of existing datasets for inland grasslands.
Quantitative knowledge for better management and policy
The project should produce quantitative knowledge about the combined effects of (trends in) climate change and nitrogen deposition on scanty grasslands in the Dutch dune areas and in the inland. This insight is essential for the development of climate adaptive measures and as input for policy on nitrogen deposition. Moreover, on the basis of this knowledge, the KWR-developed vegetation prediction model PROBE can be further improved, enabling it to assess scenarios for climate change and nitrogen deposition.