Professor David Fowler

Professor David Fowler with field instruments

Professor David Fowler FRS

IMP – Biogeochemistry

Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Bush Estate
Edinburgh, Midlothian,
EH26 0QB 
Tel: +44 (0)131 445 4343
Fax: +44 (0)131 445 3943
E-mail: Professor David Fowler

Research interests

Land-atmosphere exchange of trace gases and aerosols

Short lived pollutants: Deposition of reactive trace gases (SO2, NO2, O3, HNO3 and NH3) to the surface regulates the lifetimes and transport distances in the atmospheric boundary layer. Each of these gases is controlled by different processes at the surface and current understanding is provided by the review paper by Fowler et al 2009 "Atmospheric composition change: Ecosystem-Atmosphere interactions" (Atmospheric Environment 43 pp 5193-5267). The work to date includes the measurement of fluxes in the field by micrometeorological methods and the development and application of models to quantify long-term inputs to terrestrial ecosystems.

Greenhouse gases: Emissions of N2O and CH4 from terrestrial ecosystems contribute significantly to the atmospheric burden of these important trace gases and while measurements of emissions are available for a range of ecosystems and seasons, annual emissions at country scales remain very uncertain. The work in this area includes the measurement of emission fluxes at the field scale by micrometeorological methods and the up-scaling to landscape and regional scales using aircraft sampling in the atmospheric boundary layer.

Aerosols:  The deposition of aerosols by dry deposition to terrestrial surfaces is a significant removal process for large aerosols, and is strongly influenced by aerosol size and the aerodynamic roughness of terrestrial surfaces. Work in this area includes the measurement of aerosol deposition fluxes by micrometeorological methods and by the application of  210Pb tracer methods, the latter providing long term  (~ 20year) average deposition fluxes and has been applied to quantify the effect of urban trees on removal of aerosols from urban air.

Ground level ozone

Ground level ozone represents a threat to human health, the productivity of vegetation and tropospheric ozone is a greenhouse gas, third in importance to CO2 and CH4. Work on ground level ozone has been focussed on the surface removal process, as above and on synthesis of the ground level ozone problems at the UK (Photochemical Oxidants Review Group - PORG) and global scales (Royal Society report 2008). Ground level ozone has become a global scale issue, rather than the local or regional pollutant it was considered to be in the late 20th century.

UNEP Black carbon and ozone assessment: A recent Assessment of the role of black carbon and tropospheric ozone in air quality and climate and the potential benefits of a range of control measures for each of these pollutants.

Click here to read the UNEP Report.

Long range transport deposition and effects of pollutants in Europe

The long range transport of pollutants in Europe has over the last 40 years been a substantial environmental issue, dominated in the 1970s by the effects of acid rain on ecosystems and more recently by ground level ozone, oxidized and reduced nitrogen compounds and particulate matter. The environmental issues have changed with time and the effects of control measures have been an important aspect of the applications of the science.

Work in this area has included both the processes in the atmosphere, the effects of the pollutants on ecosystems and syntheses of the chemical climate of the atmosphere over the UK and more widely throughout Europe. The synthesis of this research may be found in the review reports National Expert Group on Transboundary Air Pollution (NEGTAP) 2001 [PDF, 12.3mb] and in ACCENT, (e.g. Answers to the Urbino Questions) as well as in the publication lists.


Current projects


Review of Transboundary Air Pollution in the UK (RoTAP)

This assessment of the effect of air pollution policies in the UK on atmospheric composition and effects was published in June 2012. The Report ( shows large changes in emissions and in air quality, especially reductions in acidification with widespread evidence of recovery. However, it also shows small responses to the changes in emissions of nitrogen compounds and a continuing widespread problem of eutrophication and ground level ozone.


Membership of professional organisations

  • Fellow of Royal Society, London
  • Fellow of Royal Society of Edinburgh
  • Fellow of Royal Meteorological Society

Recent publications

Full list of Professor Fowler's publications

See also the NERC Open Research Archive.

Skiba, U., Jones, S.K., Dragosits, U., Drewer, J., Fowler, D., Rees, R.M., Pappa, V.A., Cardenas, L., Chadwick, D., Yamulki, S., Manning, A.J. 2012. UK emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide.  Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B 367. 1175-1185. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0356

Shindell, D., Kuylenstierna, J.C.I., Vignati, E., van Dingenen, R., Amann, M., Klimont, Z., Anenberg, S.C., Muller, N., Janssens-Maenhout, G., Raes, F., Schwartz, J., Faluvegi, G., Pozzoli, L., Kupiainen, K., Höglund-Isaksson, L., Emberson, L., Streets, D., Ramanathan, V., Hicks, K., Oanh, N.T.K., Milly, G., Williams, M., Demkine, V. and Fowler, D. 2012. Simultaneously mitigating near-term climate change and improving human health and food security. Science 335 (6065). 183-189. DOI: 10.1126/science.1210026

Flechard, C.R., Nemitz, E., Smith, R.I., Fowler, D., Vermeulen, A.T., Bleeker, A., Erisman, J.W., Simpson, D., Zhang, L., Tang, Y.S., Sutton, M.A. 2011 Dry deposition of reactive nitrogen to European ecosystems: a comparison of inferential models across the NitroEurope network. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 11. 2703-2728. 10.5194/acp-11-2703-2011

Polson, D., Fowler, D., Nemitz, E., Skiba, U., McDonald, A., Famulari, D., Di Marco, C., Simmons, I., Weston, K., Purvis, R., Coe, H., Manning, A.J., Webster, H., Harrison, M., O'Sullivan, D., Reeves, C., Oram, D. 2011 Estimation of spatial apportionment of greenhouse gas emissions for the UK using boundary layer measurements and inverse modelling technique. Atmospheric Environment, 45. 1042-1049. 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2010.10.011

Evans, C.D., Monteith, D.T., Fowler, D., Cape, J.N. and Brayshaw, S.. 2011 Hydrochloric Acid: An Overlooked Driver of Environmental Change. Environmental Science and Technology, 45 (5). 1887-1894. 10.1021/es103574u

Stevens, C., Duprè, C., Gaudnik, C., Dorland, E., Dise, N., Gowing, D., Bleeker, A., Alard, D., Bobbink, R., Fowler, D. et al. 2011. Changes in species composition of European acid grasslands observed along a gradient of nitrogen deposition. Journal of Vegetation Science, 22. 207-215. 10.1111/j.1654-1103.2010.01254.x

Stevens, C.J, Duprè, C., Dorland, E., Gaudnik, C., Gowing, D.J.G., Bleeker, A., Diekmann, M., Alard, D., Bobbink, R., Fowler, D., Corcket, E.,  Mountford, J.O., Vandvik, V., Aarrestad, P.A., Muller, S., Dise, N.B., 2011. The impact of nitrogen deposition on acid grasslands in the Atlantic region of Europe.  Environmental Pollution, 159. 2243-2250. 10.1016/j.envpol.2010.11.026

Hector, A., Fowler, D., Nussbaum, R., Weilenmann, M. and Walsh, R.P.D. 2011. Introduction: the future of South East Asian rainforests in a changing landscape and climate. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (B), 366 (1582). 3165-3167. 10.1098/rstb.2011.0174

MacKenzie, A.R., Langford, B., Pugh, T.A.M., Robinson, N., Misztal, P.K., Heard, D.E., Lee, J.D., Lewis, A.C., Jones, C.E., Hopkins, J.R., Phillips, G., Monks, P.S., Karunaharan, A., Hornsby, K.E., Nicolas-Perea, V., Coe, H., Gabey, A.M., Gallagher, M.W., Whalley, L.K., Edwards, P.M., Evans, M.J., Stone, D., Ingham, T., Commane, R., Furneaux, K.L., McQuaid, J.B., Nemitz, E., Seng, Yap Kok, Fowler, D., Pyle, J.A. and Hewitt, C.N. 2011. The atmospheric chemistry of trace gases and particulate matter emitted by different land uses in Borneo. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (B), 366 (1582). 3177-3195. 10.1098/rstb.2011.0053

Fowler, D., Nemitz, E., Misztal, P., Di Marco, C., Skiba, U. et al. 2011. Effects of land use on surface–atmosphere exchanges of trace gases and energy in Borneo: comparing fluxes over oil palm plantations and a rainforest. Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society (B) 366 (1582). 3196-3209. 10.1098/rstb.2011.0055

Pyle, J. A., Warwick, N. J., Harris, N. R. P., Abas, M.R., Archibald, A. T., Ashfold, M. J., Ashworth, K., Barkley, M.P., Carver, G. D., Chance, K., Dorsey, J. R., Fowler, D. et al. 2011. The impact of local surface changes in Borneo on atmospheric composition at wider spatial scales: coastal processes, land-use change and air quality. Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society (B) 366 (1582). 3210-3224. 10.1098/rstb.2011.0060

Walsh, R.P.D., Nussbaum, R., Fowler, D., Weilenmann, M. and Hector, A. 2011. Conclusion: applying South East Asia Rainforest Research Programme science to land-use management policy and practice in a changing landscape and climate. Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society (B) 366 (1582). 3354-3358. 10.1098/rstb.2011.0179

Misztal, P.K., Nemitz, E., Langford, B., Di Marco, C.F., Phillips, G.J., Hewitt, C.N., MacKenzie, A.R., Owen, S.M., Fowler, D., Heal, M.R., Cape, J.N. 2011 Direct ecosystem fluxes of volatile organic compounds from oil palms in South-East Asia. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 11 (17). 8995-9017. 10.5194/acp-11-8995-2011

Sheppard, L. J., Leith, I. D.; Mizunuma, T., Cape, J.N., Crossley, A., Leeson, S., Sutton, M.A., Fowler, D., van Dijk, N. 2011. Dry deposition of ammonia gas drives species change faster than wet deposition of ammonium ions: evidence from a long-term field manipulation. Global Change Biology, 17 (12). 3589-3607. 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2011.02478.x

Twigg, M.M., House, E., Thomas, R., Whitehead, J., Phillips, G.J., Famulari, D., Fowler, D., Gallagher, M.W., Cape, J.N., Sutton, M.A., Nemitz, E. 2011. Surface /atmosphere exchange and chemical interactions of reactive nitrogen compounds above a manured grassland. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 151 (12). 1488-1503. 10.1016/j.agrformet.2011.06.005

Neirynck, J., Flechard, C.R., Fowler, D. 2011. Long-term (13 years) measurements of SO2 fluxes over a forest and their control by surface chemistry. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 151 (12). 1768-1780. 10.1016/j.agrformet.2011.07.013