Estimating effects of nitrogen (N) deposition is essential for understanding human impacts on biodiversity. However, studies relating atmospheric N deposition to plant diversity are usually restricted to small plots of high conservation value. Here, we used data on 381 randomly selected 1 km2 plots covering most habitat types of Central Europe and an elevational range of 2900 m. We found that high atmospheric N deposition was associated with low values of six measures of plant diversity. The weakest negative relation to N deposition was found in the traditionally measured total species richness. The strongest relation to N deposition was in phylogenetic diversity, with an estimated loss of 19% due to atmospheric N deposition as compared with a homogeneously distributed historic N deposition without human influence, or of 11% as compared with a spatially varying N deposition for the year 1880, during industrialization in Europe. Because phylogenetic plant diversity is often related to ecosystem functioning, we suggest that atmospheric N deposition threatens functioning of ecosystems at the landscape scale.

Roth, T., Kohli, L., Rihm, B., Amrhein, V., & Achermann, B. (2015). Nitrogen deposition and multi-dimensional plant diversity at the landscape scale. Royal Society Open Science, 2(4), 150017.