‘The very fabric of our countryside is changing under this rain of nitrogen’
- Ian Johnston Environment Correspondent
- Monday 13 March 2017 00:05 GMT
Air pollution is having a devastating effect on Britain’s wild flowers by helping nettles, hogweed and other “thuggish” species turn the countryside into “monotonous green badlands”, major environmental groups have warned.
A report by the Plant Link UK network, backed by organisations including Plantlife, the National Trust, Woodland Trust and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, found that 90 per cent of heathlands, acid grasslands and other sensitive habitats in England were suffering because of nitrogen emissions from fossil fuels and fertilisers. Across the whole of the UK, the figure was 63 per cent.
Nitrogen is a fertiliser, but plants fare differently depending on the amount present in the soil.
Some 37 per cent of Britain’s flowering plants prefer low nutrient conditions, whereas nettles in particular thrive when there is a lot of nitrogen in the soil.
Dr Trevor Dines, botanical specialist at Plantlife, said: “It is hard to exaggerate what a destructive impact nitrogen deposition is having on our wild flowers and other flora, fungi and ecosystems more broadly.
“Put simply, this report reveals that nitrogen deposition may present a far more immediate threat to semi-natural habitats than even climate change.”