Research347:Assessment of the Impact of Ammonia Emissions from Intensive Agriculture Installations on Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas

Authors: David B. Kelleghan, Enda T. Hayes, Mark Everard and Thomas P. Curran

Summary: Atmospheric ammonia poses a significant threat to biodiversity and human health. Concentrations of ammonia in the air downwind of hotspot sources, such as pig and poultry farms, are likely to negatively affect the environment. This project quantified and assessed the impact of ammonia emissions from intensive pig and poultry units in Ireland by monitoring detailed ammonia emissions from 17 animal production houses across four farms.

Published: 2020

ISBN: 978-1-84095-949-9

Pages: 84

Filesize: 5,152KB

Format: pdf

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Project Highlights

Watch the AmmoniaN2K project highlights video


Identifying Pressures

Atmospheric ammonia poses a significant threat to biodiversity and human health around the world. A high concentration can result in significant changes to the structure of ecosystems, as atmospheric ammonia is particularly harmful to a number of nitrogen-sensitive habitats (bogs, heath, semi-natural grasslands, etc.). In addition, ammonia reacts with other pollutants in the air to form particulate matter, which disperses over great distances. Atmospheric particulate matter has been linked to a range of pulmonary and cardiac issues in humans. Concentrations of ammonia in the air downwind of hotspot sources, such as pig and poultry farms, are likely to negatively affect the environment. The contribution of multiple sources of ammonia to cumulative impacts in Ireland is currently poorly understood.

Informing Policy

The AmmoniaN2K project aimed to assist the EPA licensing of intensive agriculture installations (pig and poultry farms) in Ireland. This work is particularly relevant to appropriate assessments on Natura 2000 sites under the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC), where modelling of contributions from agricultural sources is required. Emission rates generated and recommendations from detailed monitoring will support future assessments. The identification of farms below the Industrial Emission Directive (2010/75/EU) threshold will also assist the required cumulative impact assessments under appropriate assessment. This information has also aided the spatial reporting of emissions, which has benefited European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme concentration and deposition modelling. The emission rates generated can be used to validate and inform the Pollutant Release and Transfer Register reporting of national emissions in Ireland. Improving inventory reporting is a vital step to ensure compliance with limits set under the National Emissions Ceilings Directive (2016/2284/EU) –Ireland currently exceeds its ammonia emission limit under this directive. Monitoring on Natura 2000 sites has highlighted the need for alternative agricultural practices to reduce this impact.

Developing Solutions

The AmmoniaN2K project quantified and assessed the impact of ammonia emissions from intensive pig and poultry units on Natura 2000 sites in Ireland. This was done by monitoring detailed ammonia emissions from 17 animal production houses across four farms. These rates are compared with best available techniques-ammonia emission levels (BAT-AELs), past monitoring in Ireland and recommended rates by Simple Calculation of Atmospheric Impact Limits (SCAIL-Agriculture). Dispersion modelling of all farms was conducted using monitored rates to identify distance downwind from where both impacts and estimated minimum contributions occurred. An approach to identify farms below the Industrial Emission Directive (2010/75/EU) threshold was developed, in order to identify the total number of intensive agriculture units that are proximal to Natura 2000 sites. The Mapping Ammonia Risk on Sensitive Habitats (MARSH) model, developed as part of this study, assigned a risk of impacts from all sources of ammonia (including cattle and sheep) to Natura 2000 sites in Ireland. This model was checked against monitoring on Natura 2000 sites, which also identified potential impacts at these locations.