Open Access

Mapping background values of atmospheric nitrogen total depositions in Germany based on EMEP deposition modelling and the European Moss Survey 2005

  • Winfried Schröder1,
  • Marcel Holy1,
  • Roland Pesch1Email author,
  • Harry Harmens2 and
  • Hilde Fagerli3
Contributed equally
Environmental Sciences EuropeBridging Science and Regulation at the Regional and European Level201123:18

Received: 13 April 2011

Accepted: 18 May 2011

Published: 18 May 2011



In order to map exceedances of critical atmospheric deposition loads for nitrogen (N) surface data on the atmospheric deposition of N compounds to terrestrial ecosystems are needed. Across Europe such information is provided by the international European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP) in a resolution of 50 km by 50 km, relying on both emission data and measurement data on atmospheric depositions. The objective of the article at hand is on the improvement of the spatial resolution of the EMEP maps by combining them with data on the N concentration in mosses provided by the International Cooperative Programme on Effects of Air Pollution on Natural Vegetation and Crops (ICP Vegetation) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LTRAP) Convention.


The map on atmospheric depositions of total N as modelled by EMEP was intersected with geostatistical surface estimations on the N concentration in mosses at a resolution of 5 km by 5 km. The medians of the N estimations in mosses were then calculated for each 50 km by 50 km grid cell. Both medians of moss estimations and corresponding modelled deposition values were ln-transformed and their relationship investigated and modelled by linear regression analysis. The regression equations were applied on the moss kriging estimates of the N concentration in mosses. The respective residuals were projected onto the centres of the EMEP grid cells and were mapped using variogram analysis and kriging procedures. Finally, the residual and the regression map were summed up to the map of total N deposition in terrestrial ecosystems throughout Europe.

Results and discussion

The regression analysis of the estimated N concentrations in mosses and the modelled EMEP depositions resulted in clear linear regression patterns with coefficients of determination of r 2 = 0.62 and Pearson correlations of r p = 0.79 and Spearman correlations of r s = 0.70, respectively. Regarding the German territory a nationwide mean of 18.1 kg/ha/a (standard deviation: 3.49 kg/ha/a) could be derived from the resulting map on total N deposition in a resolution of 5 km by 5 km. Recent updates of the modelled atmospheric deposition of N provided a similar estimate for Germany.


The linking of modelled EMEP data on the atmospheric depositions of total N and the accumulation of N in mosses allows to map the deposition of total N in a high resolution of 5 km by 5 km using empirical moss data. The mapping relies on the strong statistical relationship between both processes that are physically and chemically related to each other. The mapping approach thereby relies on available data that are both based on European wide harmonized methodologies. From an ecotoxicological point of view the linking of data on N depositions and those on N bioaccumulation can be considered a substantial progress.

EMEP moss surveys ICP Vegetation atmospheric nitrogen depositions biomonitoring modeling