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Atmospheric ammonia (NH3) is a naturally occurring compound and a major part of the global nitrogen cycle. Since the latter half of the 20th century however, human-influenced emissions of ammonia have risen dramatically and it is now increasingly  recognised as a major atmospheric pollutant.   Atmospheric ammonia, when deposited can cause negative impacts on sensitive natural ecosystems and contribute to acidification and eutrophication of soils and surface waters.

In ecosystems where nitrogen is in short supply, atmospheric ammonia deposition can directly influence the competitive ability of plant species, resulting in ecosystem changes and possible changes in biodiversity. At very high concentrations in the amosphere ammonia can have direct toxic effects on both vegetation and human health. Possible health effects include short-term irritation of the eyes and lungs and long-term effects on the cardiovascular system through inhalation of fine particulate matter.

Emissions of ammonia in Ireland originate mainly from agricultural sources, particularly from livestock farming. Ammonia emissions increase almost in proportion to cattle, pigs and poultry numbers.  Ammonia emissions arise from a number of sources, including animal wastes, artificial fertiliser production and use, sewage treatment, transport, landfill, combustion of coal and biomass, and also natural sources such as soils and plants.

The Ambient Atmospheric Ammonia Network

University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
T: +353 1 716 7777 | E: brian.doyle.2@ucdconnect.ie

The Ambient Atmospheric Ammonia Network is operated by Brian Doyle, UCD Soil Science, University College Dublin | The Principal Investigator on the project is Dr Thomas Cummins, thomas.cummins@ucd.ie UCD Soil Science, University College Dublin | Project Manager, Dr Cara Augustenborg, Impact Research Management, Bray | Collaborator, Dr Julian Aherne, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada | This project is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (Project reference 1012-CCRP-MS.8).