Atmospheric Ammonia & the Environment

Agriculture is responsible for the majority of global atmospheric ammonia (NH3) emissions, with domestic animals and fertilisers the largest sources – Ireland’s agricultural sector is responsible for 98% of national emissions. The acidification and eutrophication of ecosystems caused by the deposition of atmospheric nitrogen is of consequence to habitats and species susceptible to elevated N inputs, such as heathlands, boglands, sand dunes, and calcareous grasslands, amongst others. A suite of sites have been designated across Europe to protect these and other habitats/species, under both the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive. The resultant network of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs), are collectively known as the Natura 2000 (N2K) network.

Existing Atmospheric Ammonia Monitoring Network

Ambient monitoring of atmospheric ammonia is currently being researched by UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science. This project utilised the network of monitoring sites set up as part of the EPAs monitoring programme in 1999, from which it aims to develop an optimum national ammonia monitoring programme. Further information on this project is available here. The original 1999 monitoring report is available through the EPA’s SAFER-Data download page.

The AmmoniaN2K Project

The AmmoniaN2K project will quantify and assess the impact of ammonia emissions from intensive pig and poultry units on Natura 2000 sites in Ireland, in order to assist the EPA licensing of intensive agriculture installations, in particular to support Appropriate Assessments under the Habitats Directive; contribute to national inventory reporting and PRTR reporting; assist in the assessment of developments under Food Harvest 2020 and support work on trans-boundary air pollution.


Work Packages

The AmmoniaN2K project has been divided into the following work packages:

WP1. Project Management;
WP2. Understanding the current state of environment: Comprehensive literature review and geospatial analysis, in addition to the identification of four case study sites;
WP3. Establishing an emissions and ambient monitoring programme: Monitoring ammonia emmissions from four case study sites;
WP4. Data analysis and atmospheric dispersion modelling: Comprehensive data analysis including generation of ammonia dispersion models;
WP5. Ecological assessment of impact: Using critical loads and dispersion models to identify and assess habitats and species within N2K sites under threat;
WP6. Knowledge Transfer: Dissemination of results through publications, websites and conferences.

Published Reports

A report on the first step in the preliminary screening of sites based on UK Environment Agency distance thresholds is available in UCD Schools of Biosystems Engineering 19th Research Review:

An abstract was submitted to the Environmental Science Association of Ireland’s Environ 2015 conference. Full book of abstracts available here.

Useful References

To date, there have been very few ammonia emission studies on commercial pig and poultry farms in Ireland. The references below provide results from work previously carried out by UCD researchers.

  • Hayes, E.T., Curran, T.P., Dodd, V.A., 2006. Odour and ammonia emissions from intensive poultry units in Ireland. Bioresource technology 97, 933–9. Link to full text
  • Hayes, E.T., Curran, T.P., Dodd, V.A., 2006. Odour and ammonia emissions from intensive pig units in Ireland. Bioresource technology 97, 940–8. Link to full text
  • Hayes, E.T., Leek, A., Curran, T.P., Dodd, V.A., Carton, O.T., Beattie, V.E., O’Doherty, J. V, 2004. The influence of diet crude protein level on odour and ammonia emissions from finishing pig houses. Bioresource Technology 91, 309–315. Link to full text

Project Team

Key Contacts

The Project Manager is Dr. Tom Curran,, UCD School of Biosystems Engineering, UCD Agriculture and Food Science, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4.
The Principal Researcher is Dáithí Kelleghan,, UCD School of Biosystems Engineering, UCD Agriculture and Food Science, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4.
The EPA Point of Contact is John McEntagart,, Climate Change Unit, Office of Climate, Licensing and Resource Use, Environmental Protection Agency, McCumiskey House, Richview Business Park, Clonskeagh, Dublin 4.

Other Project Collaborators

Dr. Enda Hayes and Dr. Mark Everard,  University of West England, Bristol.
                                                       Start Date: 01/01/2014       End Date: 01/06/2018

Funded by the Environmental Protection Agency 2013 Strive Programme