New international long-term ecological research on air pollution effects on the Carpathian Mountain forests, Central Europe

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An international cooperative project on distribution of ozone in the Carpathian Mountains, Central Europe was conducted from 1997 to 1999. Results of that project indicated that in large parts of the Carpathian Mountains, concentrations of ozone were elevated and potentially phytotoxic to forest vegetation. That study led to the establishment of new long-term studies on ecological changes in forests and other ecosystems caused by air pollution in the Retezat Mountains, Southern Carpathians, Romania and in the Tatra Mountains, Western Carpathians on the Polish-Slovak border. Both of these important mountain ranges have the status of national parks and are Man & the Biosphere Reserves. In the Retezat Mountains, the primary research objective was to evaluate how air pollution may affect forest health and biodiversity. The main research objective in the Tatra Mountains was to evaluate responses of natural and managed Norway spruce forests to air pollution and other stresses. Ambient concentrations of ozone (O3), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) as well as forest health and biodiversity changes were monitored on densely distributed research sites. Initial monitoring of pollutants indicated low levels Of O3, SO2, and NOx in the Retezat Mountains, while elevated levels of O3 and high deposition of atmospheric sulfur (S) and nitrogen (N) have characterized the Tatra Mountains. In the Retezat Mountains, air pollution seems to have little effect on forest health; however, there was concern that over a long time, even low levels of pollution may affect biodiversity of this important ecosystem. In contrast, severe decline of Norway spruce has been observed in the Tatra Mountains. Although bark beetle seems to be the immediate cause of that decline, long-term elevated levels of atmospheric N and S depositions and elevated O3 could predispose trees to insect attacks and other stresses. European and US scientists studied pollution deposition, soil and plant chemistry, O3-sensitive plant species, forest insects, and genetic changes in the Retezat and Tatra Mountains. Results of these investigations are presented in a GIS format to allow for a better understanding of the changes and the recommendations for effective management in these two areas.

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Environment International