Pollutant Information: Ammonia 

About Ammonia

Category: Air pollutants

Ammonia (NH3) plays an important role in a number of different environmental issues including acidification; nitrification and eutrophication. It also acts as a precursor to secondary particulate matter, therefore contributing to the related health impacts. The atmospheric chemistry of NH3 means that it can react with other chemicals to produce particles, which can be removed from the atmosphere by rain, or to produce other ammonia compounds, which can be transported long distances. As a result NH3 emissions can impact on a highly localised level, as well as contributing to effects from long-range pollutant transport. Agriculture is the dominant source of emissions, with the sector accounting for 81% of total emissions in 2015. Emissions occur due to the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers and from livestock farming, and cattle are the single largest source. Total UK emissions were 10% lower in 2015 compared with 1980 and the most significant cause of reductions in recent years has been decreasing cattle numbers. Emissions from agricultural soils have increased since 2013 due to the increased use of urea based fertilisers. A further reduction in emissions of 3% from 2015 will be required for the UK to meet the National Emission Ceilings Directive and Gothenburg Protocol target for 2020.

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Time series graph


Notable events

Start year End year Sector Information Impact
2000 2013 Cattle Decreasing livestock numbers and increasing milk yields improves efficiency in Agricultural industry. Decrease in emissions
2000 2013 Direct Soil Emissions Decrease in synthetic fertiliser application to soils for crop growth. The EU Nitrates directive/NVZs put restrictions on the use of nitrates. Decrease in emissions
2009 2015 Direct soils emissions Introduction of large scale use of non-manure-based digestate spreading Increase in emissions
1980 2015 Waste Inclusion of emissions arising from anaerobic digestion into the inventory reporting (NFR 5B2 and 5E) for the first time. This covers process emissions (5B2) as well as emissions from landspreading of non-agricultural digestate products (5E). This new source contributed to 3% of total ammonia emissions in 2015 Increase in emissions