Background to research
Defra and the Devolved Administrations are responsible for an air quality classification scheme that assesses the impacts of air quality on human health, as well as a number of long-term air quality indicators. The classification scheme has two key functions: it provides information on the status of air quality based on near-real time information; and it feeds into one of the UK Government‟s headline air quality indicators for sustainable development. The indicators assess the progress of measured and modelled air pollution levels against specified health based targets.
Environmental regulators within the UK are responsible for not only impacts on human health but also for protecting the environment as a whole – including ecosystems and civil amenities. It is therefore recognised by these organisations that there would be benefits in developing a suitable methodology that could summarise all of the various negative effects of air pollutants: human health, ecosystems, and amenities.
A previous SNIFFER project, UKPIR03 “Extension of the UK Air Quality Classification Scheme: Scoping of Options”, investigated the feasibility of extending the health-based scheme to integrate ecosystem and civil amenity measures to provide a new tool for the management of air quality. The study also considered how a scheme could be tailored for use at a local and regional scale. The report recommended that any future work should focus, in the first instance, on the development of a classification system based on assessing ecosystem impacts.
Objectives of research
This project aims to fulfil the recommendations of this previous study by developing an appropriate methodology and set of indicators that can be used to identify and summarise the impacts of air pollutants on ecosystems. The key objectives are to provide a methodology which:
In addition, there is a need to consider how the methodology can be applied across a range of spatial scales to allow for national and regional interrogation of data.
Key findings and recommendations
The full suggested methodology is split into three tiers of classification. Tier 1 uses existing critical load and critical level data to determine the level of risk to assign to each 1km x 1km grid square throughout the UK. Tier 2 enables a further classification of those areas deemed to be at risk where sufficient information exists and where such further classification is deemed to be valuable to the user. Tier 3, the final tier, provides a validation strategy to reduce the uncertainty of the assigned risk through the quantification of impacts. These Tiers are summarised below along with the key outputs.
|Tier 1||Use of critical loads and critical levels to assign each 1km grid square a risk level of GREEN, AMBER or RED||
|Tier 2||Further classification of AMBER and RED risk into Level 1 to Level 4 to facilitate summary of regional impacts||
|Tier 3||Validation and reduction of uncertainty.||
The availability, periodicity and quality of data that could feed into the proposed methodology are identified and discussed.
In order to fully investigate the feasibility of developing the methodology discussed within this report, the implementation of a testing phase is considered. A demonstration area around Sheffield is recommended based on the presence of a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a large urban area in close proximity. This would serve to demonstrate the methodology within both comparatively data rich and data poor areas.
Key words: air pollution, air quality, bio-indicator, classification scheme, critical level, critical load, ecosystem, habitat, indicator, pollution, regional scale, risk-based methodology, risk-based approach
Copies of this report are available from the Foundation, in electronic format on CDRom at £20.00 + VAT or hard copy at £25.00, less 20% to FWR members.
N.B. The report is available for download from the SNIFFER Website