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Data source: German Environment Agency

Geographical Area: Germany

This table includes additional information to the above visualized indicators, i.e. a short definition of this indicator and a description of the politically determined target values as well as explaining the political intention behind selecting this indicator.


The indicator shows the sensitive ecosystem area where the critical ecological loads have been exceeded due to atmospheric nitrogen inputs, as a proportion of the total assessed sensitive ecosystem area.

Target and intention

The critical ecological loads are a measure of the sensitivity of an ecosystem to the input of a pollutant. If the inputs of air pollutants remain below these critical loads, no harmful effects on the structure and functioning of an ecosystem are to be expected according to the current state of knowledge. Almost half of the ferns and flowering plants that are included in the Red List in Germany are endangered by nutrient inputs. By 2030, the share of land with an elevated input of nitrogen is to be reduced by 35 % compared with 2005. This would be a reduction to 52 % of the total ecosystem area under assessment.

Data status

The data published in the indicator report 2022 is as of 31 October 2022. The data shown on this platform is updated regularly, so that more current data may be available online than published in the indicator report 2022.

Text from the Indicator Report 2022 

Nitrogen, which escapes into the atmosphere bonded in ammonia and nitrogen oxides, can be introduced into ecosystems in gaseous form, dissolved in rain, or as a component of particulate matter. Emissions of ammonia and nitrogen oxides are depicted as part of indicator 3.2.a on emissions of air pollutants, and developments in that area directly affect the eutrophication of ecosystems. The sensitive ecosystems covered in the calculations for this indicator are forests, natural grassland, wetlands, marshes and heathland.

Excessive inputs of nitrogen compounds from the air into land ecosystems can result in nutrient imbalances. The alterations in nutrient availability can lead, for example, to changes in the species composition of an ecosystem, with organisms which prefer nitrogen-poor locations being displaced by nitrogen-loving species. Meanwhile, many plants can be rendered vulnerable to frost, drought and pests by changes in nutrient availability. The effects of excessive nitrogen inputs often take several years to manifest themselves. Likewise, the positive effects of reduced inputs will become apparent only after an extended period.

For the purposes of evaluating nitrogen inputs, ecosystem-specific critical loads are determined which represent the saturation points below which, based on the latest knowledge available, the structures, functions and biological communities of an ecosystem remain protected. In total, around 11 million hectares, almost one third of the entire area of Germany, are assessed in this way.

In 2019, the critical loads for harmful nitrogen inputs were exceeded on 69 % of the area of all the sensitive ecosystems assessed in Germany. Excesses were particularly high in parts of northern Germany, where agricultural activity releases large quantities of reactive nitrogen compounds.

Between 2000 and 2015, the proportion of areas in which critical loads for nitrogen were exceeded was reduced by 15 percentage points. The indicator rose again slightly in the subsequent year before returning to the 2011 level by 2019. The share of land where nitrogen was in excess of the critical load has thus not fallen any further since 2015.

The calculations for this indicator are produced by the German Environment Agency and derived from two data sets. The first of these is the critical-load data set, which the German Environment Agency provides for the purposes of international reporting under the aegis of the Geneva Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP). The tools used to determine that data set include the soil overview map of Germany, the map showing average annual rates of percolation into the soil, the map of land-use distribution and climatological data for Germany. The second data set comprises a time series of nitrogen inputs in Germany and was compiled as part of the PINETI IV (Pollutant INput and EcosysTem Impact) project.

The synoptic table provides information about the evaluation of the indicator in previous years. It shows if the weather symbol assigned to an indicator was rather stable or volatile in the past years. (Evaluation of the Indicator Report 2022 )


15.2 Eutrophication of ecosystems


Reduction by 35 % by 2030 compared to 2005







No assess­ment possible