• Climate and air pollution impacts on habitat suitability of Austrian forest ecosystems.

      Dirnböck, Thomas; Djukic, Ika; Kitzler, Barbara; Kobler, Johannes; Mol-Dijkstra, Janet P; Posch, Max; Reinds, Gert Jan; Schlutow, Angela; Starlinger, Franz; Wamelink, Wieger G W (2017)
      Climate change and excess deposition of airborne nitrogen (N) are among the main stressors to floristic biodiversity. One particular concern is the deterioration of valuable habitats such as those protected under the European Habitat Directive. In future, climate-driven shifts (and losses) in the species potential distribution, but also N driven nutrient enrichment may threaten these habitats. We applied a dynamic geochemical soil model (VSD+) together with a novel niche-based plant response model (PROPS) to 5 forest habitat types (18 forest sites) protected under the EU Directive in Austria. We assessed how future climate change and N deposition might affect habitat suitability, defined as the capacity of a site to host its typical plant species. Our evaluation indicates that climate change will be the main driver of a decrease in habitat suitability in the future in Austria. The expected climate change will increase the occurrence of thermophilic plant species while decreasing cold-tolerant species. In addition to these direct impacts, climate change scenarios caused an increase of the occurrence probability of oligotrophic species due to a higher N immobilisation in woody biomass leading to soil N depletion. As a consequence, climate change did offset eutrophication from N deposition, even when no further reduction in N emissions was assumed. Our results show that climate change may have positive side-effects in forest habitats when multiple drivers of change are considered.
    • A novel concept in ground water quality management: Towards function specific screening values.

      Swartjes, Frank A; Otte, Piet F (2017)
      This paper is meant to initiate and feed the discussion on a more sophisticated procedure for the derivation and use of groundwater screening values (GSVs). To this purpose, the possibilities and tools for the derivation of function specific GSVs, i.e., GSVs that depend on the actual contact of humans and ecosystems with groundwater and groundwater-related mediums, are elaborated in this study. Application of GSVs geared to the specific use and function of specific groundwater volumes could result in a more effective and cost-efficient groundwater quality management, without compromising the protection of human health and the ecosystem. Therefore, a procedure to derive function specific GSVs was developed. For illustrative purposes, risk limits have been derived for human health and ecological protection targets, for arsenic, benzene, methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) and vinylchloride. Agriculture and Nature reserves (combined), Residential and Industrial land uses have been considered and two different groundwater management purposes, i.e., curative and sustainable groundwater management. For each of the four contaminants, this results in a series of risks limits for each function and land use combination. It is shown that for all four contaminants higher groundwater screening values are considered appropriate for less sensitive combinations of function and land use. In the process towards (policy) implementation of these function specific GSV, it is recommended to evaluate the selection of protection targets, the scientific basis of the risk assessment procedures applied and the methodology to assess the time factor for groundwater quality assessment, given the fact that groundwater is a dynamic medium. Moreover, protection levels must be harmonized with national or regional groundwater quality standards and correspond with the requirements of the Groundwater Daughter Directive of the European Union Water Framework Directive. Groundwater plumes that are judged as 'no need for remediation' are not compatible with the Water Framework Directive requirement to take actions to prevent or limit inputs of contaminants, even when no receptor is present. However, the European Commission formulated a series of exemptions, to avoid that the "prevent" requirement would imply an onerous and sometimes unfeasible task. The function specific GSVs derived in this study could be used to identify the groundwater volumes that do not result in an unacceptable risk.