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Ecosystem damage area by air pollution, EEA18

Indicator Fact Sheet (Deprecated)
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Assessment made on  01 Jan 2001

Generic metadata


Air pollution Air pollution (Primary theme)

DPSIR: Impact


Indicator codes
Geographic coverage:

Policy issue:  Are we protecting the environment effectively against acidification and eutrophication?

Key messages

  • While recent reductions in sulphur dioxide emissions have helped decrease the areas threatened by acidification, this downward trend has been reversed by nitrogen pollution, which has also increased the area exposed to eutrophication.


Key assessment

When both sulphur and nitrogen compounds settle out of the atmosphere, the resulting acidification of soils and surface waters can have serious consequences for both plant life and water fauna. Nitrogen compounds both nitrogen oxides (NOx) and ammonia - can also contribute to eutrophication, disrupting ecosystems, creating algae blooms in coastal waters and increasing nitrate concentrations in groundwater.

  • The corresponding area of EEA territory exposed to a critical load of acidifying substances compounds - fell by over 50% between 1986 and 1994, before swinging slowly upwards again. This was caused by large reductions in sulphur deposition, and les reductions in nitrogen depositions, which actually increased in some countries
  • The corresponding area for eutrophication has remained stable, no progress has been made since 1985.

In 40% of the EEA, in fact, the percentage of ecosystems exposed to damaging eutrophication has increased since 1990. Looking at the issue in terms of national frontiers, eight countries - the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Greece saw an increase in the amount of land exposed to eutrophication.

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
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