The Royal Society: Call for Evidence - Ozone Study
(2007)
JNCC Consultation 0723
Submission by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee
Enclosed is a letter from JNCC in collaboration with CCW, CNCC, NE, NI and SNH in which the Royal Society's inivitation for evidence to be provided in relation to a study on Ozone is accepted. Submitted on 15th March 2007.
 
 

Summary of key points

 
We at JNCC very much welcome the Royal Society’s study of ground-level ozone.   The scope of the study is ambitious and thorough.  It addresses key gaps in existing reviews and initiatives. In particular, we value this forward look to 2030-2100 and the interaction with climate change, since both drivers could have significant impacts on the biodiversity resource of the UK.  However, we recognise the considerable uncertainties that this introduces.
 
Ground-level ozone is a major air pollutant and the conservation agencies consider it to represent a significant threat to sensitive habitats in the UK.  This concern is reinforced by the mapping of ozone critical level exceedance which shows that large areas of semi-natural habitat in the UK exceed the critical level (usually by a considerable margin).
 
Whilst the reduction in precursor emissions in the UK and Europe has led to a reduction in peak ozone concentrations, the benefits of this have to be set against the potential impacts of increasing background levels of the pollutant.  This could be particularly important for sensitive upland communities which are currently exposed to high mean concentrations, but generally lower peaks than lowland communities.  For example, the Countryside Council for Wales has established a continuous ozone monitor in the heart of Snowdonia, at an altitude of 600m.  Results from this monitoring show that ozone levels regularly exceed thresholds set to protect vegetation.
 
Current conservation policy and legislative commitments provide a strong driver for a better understanding of ozone impacts on nature conservation and a resulting policy response.  For example, JNCC is currently drawing together, on behalf of Defra, the UK’s report on Favourable Conservation Status (FCS) under Article 17 of the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC). A key aspect of this is a consideration of the current threats and future pressures to the viability of the habitats and species listed in the Directive. Ozone represents a significant concern and could theoretically challenge the future attainment of FCS of sensitive habitats and species. However, since relatively little is known about the effects on the habitats and species covered by the Directive (and other semi-natural habitats covered by UK policy and legislation) and there is little or no field evidence of impacts, even a coarse qualitative assessment of ozone impacts is not possible for the current reporting round.  Therefore, the assessment of air pollution impacts is now a key objective for the conservation agencies. To address this we are working with Defra, and other partners, to establish a targeted monitoring network to monitor impacts of ‘traditional’ air pollutants on protected sites, with a view to quantifying the impacts and informing site condition assessment and FCS in subsequent reporting rounds. The study, which recommended the scope and design of the network, also identified a need for a systematic assessment of ozone impacts. However, the current targeted monitoring proposal does not cover ozone because the methodology for field assessment is not sufficiently advanced.
 
Recognising this shortfall in our understanding of ozone impacts on (semi-)natural communities, and as a result our knowledge of how management and policy measures can be used to mitigate or respond to impacts, the conservation agencies have recently commissioned a short research contract to review the impacts of ozone on nature conservation.
 
 
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Please cite as: JNCC Consultation 0723, (2007), The Royal Society: Call for Evidence - Ozone Study, Submission by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee