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Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham MSP and Andrew Taylor (Air Quality Policy Manager, Scottish Government) with CEH environmental physicist Dr Eiko Nemitz

People standing beside scientific equipment in conversation

Professor Mark Sutton explains CEH research activities related to reactive nitrogen to Ms Cunningham

Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham, visited Auchencorth Moss atmospheric monitoring site last week with scientists from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH).

Auchencorth Moss, near Edinburgh, is one of two 'measurement supersites' in the UK for atmospheric composition change, fluxes of trace gases and aerosol concentrations. It is also a regional station within the World Meteorological Organisation’s Global Atmosphere Watch programme, and part of the Integrated Carbon Observation System pan-European research infrastructure for 'Ecosystems' measurements.

Researchers from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology’s Atmospheric Chemistry and Effects science area based in Edinburgh guided Ms Cunningham and Andrew Taylor, Air Quality Policy Manager for the Scottish Government, around the site.

Following the visit, Ms Cunningham said: "I welcomed the opportunity to see one of the key sites in the Scottish air quality monitoring network in operation, and recognise the wider support provided by CEH expertise and data in supporting Scottish Government air policy delivery and development." 

As part of the visit, Dr Christine Braban, Group Leader Atmospheric Composition Change at CEH, provided an overview of the Auchencorth Moss site. Colleagues then provided briefings on its significance and how the long-term monitoring conducted by CEH feeds into critical Scottish, UK and global environmental research and underpinned decision-making.

Dr Amanda Thomson, Group Leader of the Emissions, Sources, Sinks and Solutions Research Group, outlined CEH's work underpinning the UK and Scottish submissions of greenhouse gas emissions from land use, land use change and forestry. Meanwhile, Dr Bryan Spears explained CEH's long-term monitoring activities in freshwater ecosystems, which has confirmed their importance in regulating aquatic carbon delivery from land to sea.

Long-term monitoring conducted by CEH at Auchencorth Moss feeds into critical Scottish, UK and global environmental research and underpinned decision-making.

After Dr Carole Helfter introduced work on surface-atmosphere exchange of greenhouse gases observed at the site and through international research projects, Dr Eiko Nemitz, Group Leader of Biosphere-Atmosphere Exchange and Effects, and Professor Mark Sutton led the tour of the site and introduced the key capabilities, instrumentation and the significance of the measurements for advancing our scientific understanding of the processes driving changes in biogeochemical cycles. These findings underpin evidence for local to global policy development, for instance on improving nutrient management.

Professor Sutton, who leads global initiatives on better nitrogen management, said: “The long-term measurements provide a vital baseline to underpin CAFS, the Clean Air for Scotland strategy. Our work shows that reducing agricultural ammonia emissions offers a major opportunity to improve air quality and protect natural habitats, while saving farmers money on their fertilizer costs.”

Dr Stefan Reis, head of CEH's Atmospheric Chemistry and Effects science area, said: "Auchencorth Moss is an internationally valuable site for air quality monitoring.   

"We have collected more than 20 years of data from the site and currently we are focused on several main areas of research: surface-atmosphere exchange and fluxes, atmospheric composition change and carbon flows, incorporating measurements of atmospheric and terrestrial processes, as well as their interactions with aquatic systems.

"We were delighted to introduce our facility to the Cabinet Secretary and to provide an overview about our research. We will continue to work with the Scottish Government and its agencies and contribute to the knowledge base for Scotland’s air, freshwater and land use policies.”     

Additional information

Auchencorth Moss is one of the UK’s most important monitoring sites and is the only one in Scotland to produce real-time information on particle composition, allowing a quick response to pollution events. Long-term monitoring at Auchencorth Moss is led by CEH with contributions from other research organisations. To find out more, visit


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