Excessive nitrogen deposition leads to a loss of biodiversity and has consequences for important ecosystem functions such as food production and water storage. TNO creates detailed maps of nitrogen deposition in order to determine which measures can best protect vulnerable areas.

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70 percent of nature protection areas in the Netherlands and Europe are dealing with excessive nitrogen deposition: the movement of nitrogen from the atmosphere to the soil. In these vulnerable areas, biodiversity is declining due to a combination of eutrophication and acidification. This loss of biodiversity has consequences for ecosystem functions such as food production, pollination and water storage. Agriculture, traffic and industry are major causes of nitrogen surpluses.

Nitrogen deposits in Natura 2000 sites

TNO has the knowledge and technology needed to map out the impact of polluting emissions on ecosystems. These will be used to identify the extent to which vulnerable ecosystems – such as protected Natura 2000 areas, for example – are receiving too much nitrogen. Using data from in-situ and satellite measurements, TNO is able to further reduce uncertainties so that we can more accurately determine how nitrogen deposition is taking place.

Helping policymakers

The costs of reducing nitrogen emissions in Europe amounts to more than EUR 1 billion annually. An important question for policymakers and sectors, therefore, is how to avoid nitrogen emissions as effectively as possible. TNO also provides insights into the origin of nitrogen emissions in a given area. This allows us to identify which measures are most effective both locally and regionally. As a result, we can help policymakers and companies to answer the question of which measures can be used to protect these areas, limiting the damage to nature and restoring ecosystems.

Nitrogen maps of Germany

Together with the Umweltbundesamt (UBA) in Berlin, the German equivalent of the RIVM, TNO is producing detailed maps of nitrogen deposition in Germany within the long-term PINETI project. Using these nitrogen deposition maps, the German government designs effective policies to reduce nitrogen emissions.


Dr. Ir. Gerard van der Laan

  • Research Manager Climate Air
  • Sustainability
  • Climate
  • Emissions
  • Air pollution

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