Nitrogen deposition shows no consistent negative nor positive effect on the response of forest productivity to drought across European FLUXNET forest sites

S. C. Van Der Graaf, T. A.J. Janssen, J. W. Erisman, M. Schaap

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Atmospheric reactive nitrogen (N) deposition is an important driver of carbon (C) sequestration in forest ecosystems. Previous studies have focused on N-C interactions in various ecosystems; however, relatively little is known about the impact of N deposition on ecosystem C cycling during climate extremes such as droughts. With the occurrence and severity of droughts likely to be exacerbated by climate change, Ndeposition - drought interactions remain one of the key uncertainties in process based models to date. This study aims to contribute to the understanding of N deposition-drought dynamics on gross primary production (GPP) in European forest ecosystems. To do so, different soil water availability indicators (Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI), soil volumetric water) and GPP measurements from European FLUXNET forest sites were used to quantify the response of forest GPP to drought. The computed drought responses of the forest GPP to drought were linked to modeled N deposition estimates for varying edaphic, physiological, and climatic conditions. Our result showed a differential response of forest ecosystems to the drought indicators. Although all FLUXNET forest sites showed a coherent dependence of GPP on N deposition, no consistent or significant N deposition effect on the response of forest GPP to drought could be isolated. The mean response of forest GPP to drought could be predicted for forests with Pinus trees as dominant species (R2= 0.85, RMSE = 8.1). After extracting the influence of the most prominent parameters (mean annual temperature and precipitation, forest age), however, the variability remained too large to significantly substantiate hypothesized N deposition effects. These results suggest that, while N deposition clearly affects forest productivity, N deposition is not a major nor consistent driver of forest productivity responses to drought in European forest ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number125003
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironmental Research Communications
Issue number12
Early online date7 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work used eddy covariance data acquired and shared by the FLUXNET community, including these networks: AmeriFlux, AfriFlux, AsiaFlux, CarboAfrica, CarboEuropeIP, CarboItaly, CarboMont, ChinaFlux, Fluxnet-Canada, GreenGrass, ICOS, KoFlux, LBA, NECC, OzFlux-TERN, TCOS-Siberia, and USCCC. The FLUXNET eddy covariance data processing and harmonization was carried out by the ICOS Ecosystem Thematic Center, AmeriFlux Management Project and Fluxdata project of FLUXNET, with the support of CDIAC, and the OzFlux, ChinaFlux and AsiaFlux offices. This work was funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) under project numer ALW-GO/16-05.

Publisher Copyright:
©2021 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd.


  • Drought
  • European forests
  • FLUXNET2015
  • Nitrogen deposition
  • Nitrogen deposition-drought interactions
  • SPEI


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