Nitrogen deposition, 1990-2018

Nitrogen deposition, averaged over the Netherlands, totalled 1,730 mol nitrogen per ha (mol N/ha) in 2018. Deposition has therefore decreased by 36% since 1990. Since 2005 the decrease has stagnated, because ammonia deposition has not decreased further, and has even risen since 2009.


The national average nitrogen deposition, also called eutrophying deposition, was between 2,500 and 3,000 mol N/ha in the early-1990s. This has steadily declined to levels under 1,600 mol mol N/ha, and now even risen again to the current level of 1,730 mol N/ha. This is because the deposition of reduced nitrogen has not decreased further since 2005 and has even risen since 2009.
Annual variations in meteorological conditions can, with constant emission levels, result in fluctuations in deposition of up to 10 percent.
The reduction in nitrogen deposition on the long term (1990-2018) is due to lower emissions of both nitrogen oxides and ammonia.

  • The emissions of nitrogen oxides in the Netherlands have decreased by 64% since 1990. This decrease is the mainly the result of measures in traffic (including the introduction of catalysts), in industry and in the energy sector.
  • The ammonia emissions in the Netherlands have also decreased by 64% since 1990. This reduction is the result of measures in the agricultural sector, such as improved feed composition, the use of low-emission animal housing, the covering of manure storages and the use of low-emission manure application techniques.
  • Moreover, the foreign emissions of ammonia and especially nitrogen oxides decreased in the same period.
  • The decrease in average nitrogen deposition on terrestrial ecosystems in the Netherlands has stabilised in recent years.

Across large areas of different ecosystems the deposition levels still exceed the critical loads for sustaining good ecological quality. The average degree of exceedance is particularly high in the forest and heath ecosystems (see also: Exceedance of critical loads for nitrogen deposition on nature, 1995-2016 and Ecosystem quality and trends in nitrogen availability, 1994-2021)

Nitrogen deposition on a national scale in 2018

There are large regional differences in the deposition of nitrogen compounds. In particular in areas with intensive livestock farming, such as Friesland, de Gelderse Vallei and de Peel, nitrogen deposition can reach levels of up to 4,000 mol N/ha respectively. Such high deposition is mainly due to high local ammonia emissions from intensive livestock farming. Ammonia is emitted close to the ground and has a high deposition rate, therefore a lot of ammonia is deposited close to the source. High emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in and around the major cities in the Netherlands are responsible for higher deposition in these areas.
Over 65 percent of the nitrogen deposition originates from Dutch sources. The Dutch agricultural sector is the main contributor to nitrogen deposition in the Netherlands with 46 percent (see also: Herkomst stikstofdepositie, 2022 (in Dutch)).

For more detailed information about the development of emissions of nitrogen substances in the Netherlands, see Emissions of National Emission Ceiling (NEC) substances, 1990-2013.


  • RIVM, 2019. Auteurs: Hoogerbrugge, R., Geilenkirchen, G.P., den Hollander, H.A., van der Swaluw, E., Visser, S., de Vries, W.J. & Wichink Kruit, R.J. Grootschalige concentratie- en depositiekaarten Nederland. Rapportage 2019. Rapport 2019-0091, Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu, Bilthoven.

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Reference of this webpage

CBS, PBL, RIVM, WUR (2024). Nitrogen deposition, 1990-2018 (indicator 0189, version 18,

) Statistics Netherlands (CBS), The Hague; PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, The Hague; RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven; and Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen.