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Continuing our calls for action on nitrogen

Beard-lichens, horsehair-lichens, mosses, liverworts and polypody ferns on an oak branch in Dartmoor (c) Dave Lamacraft

Plantlife continued to lead the call for government action to tackle air pollution during 2021/22 due to the significant threat which excess nitrogen deposited from the air poses to our wild plants, lichens, fungi and their habitats.

In particular, we advocated stricter control of ammonia emissions, which have a devastating impact on local wildlife and contribute to urban smog. Despite this, ammonia – which usually comes from farm livestock, manure and artificial fertilisers – is still often overlooked in strategies on air quality, biodiversity and agriculture.

Official statistics published in February show that ammonia emissions have decreased by just 18% over 30 years, compared to a drop at least 65% for all other pollutants.

Elsewhere, we joined forces with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and Global Action Plan to raise public awareness of Clean Air Day, which took place in June. The event took on extra significance this year, as it coincided with a poll showing that 80% of people believe reducing air pollution is important because of its impact on both nature and health. In addition, we advocated for policy change through direct dialogue and by responding to Government consultations in England, Scotland and Wales on air quality strategies, as well as new farm regulations and planning policies.

Finding the balance

Aware that excess nitrogen in air pollution is just one way in which human activity has disrupted the natural nitrogen cycle, Plantlife co-authored a report called ‘Finding the Balance: A Comprehensive Approach to Nitrogen’ during 2021/22. Commissioned by WWF UK, the document details ways to tackle nitrogen pollution in all its forms through joined-up working and setting national nitrogen budgets.

Along with the Soil Association, Client Earth, RSPB, Woodland Trust and WWF UK, we also established a new partnership to identify and propose practical and policy solutions to reduce air, water and soil pollution. As well as restoring biodiversity and protecting people’s health, we hope the collaboration will help to cut emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases.

Image credits: Header image - Dave Lamacraft

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