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Vegetation

International Cooperative Programme on Effects of Air Pollution on Natural Vegetation and Crops

Chair: Mr. Harry Harmens
Head of Programme Centre: Ms. Gina Mills

The potential for damage to crops by air pollution in many areas of Europe is high and the annual economic cost may be considerable. To consider the underlying science for quantifying crop damage, the International Cooperative Programme on Effects of Air Pollution on Natural Vegetation and Crops programme was established in 1987, initially with the aim to assess the impacts of air pollutants on crops, particularly ozone, but in later years also on (semi-)natural vegetation. ICP Vegetation focuses on the following air pollution problems: quantifying the risks to vegetation posed by ozone pollution and the atmospheric deposition of heavy metals, nitrogen and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) to vegetation. In addition, it studies the interactive impacts of air pollutants (e.g. ozone and nitrogen) on vegetation in a changing climate, including impacts on biodiversity. 

Regarding ozone pollution, an important aim of the ICP Vegetation is to develop and validate ozone flux-effect relationships for vegetation. Based on the developed flux-effect relationships, impacts of ozone on ecosystem functioning and the services they provide can be determined, for example impacts on food production, carbon sequestration, nutrient and water cycling.  

Every five years since 1990, a survey has been conducted on the concentration of heavy metals in naturally growing mosses. Since 2005, the nitrogen concentration in mosses has also been determined and in 2010 a pilot study was conducted on POPs. The moss survey enables the assessment of spatial variation and temporal trends of atmospheric deposition to vegetation at a high spatial resolution. To stimulate participation of countries in Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia and other parts of Asia, the coordination of the moss survey was transferred to the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, in Dubna, Russian Federation, in 2014. 

The ICP Vegetation is planned and coordinated by a Task Force led by the United Kingdom and has its Programme Coordination Centre at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) in Bangor. It comprises an enthusiastic group of over 200 scientists from more than 40 countries and is keen to collaborate with regions outside the UNECE region.

Further information on activities, publications and meetings is available from the Programme Centre.