Auchencorth 2020
Atmospheric Chemistry (non-Greenhouse Gas studies)

Science challenge

Air quality has major impacts on the environment and human health. Understanding of emissions, transport, chemical transformations, and deposition of air pollutants is of paramount importance if we are to mitigate their negative impacts. This requires large-scale long-term research infrastructures, and collaboration with partner institutions. Through this, we can provide the necessary evidence base required to monitor long-term trends of pollutants, assess environmental impacts, and to inform policymakers on mitigation strategies at local, national and international levels.

Project summary

Auchencorth Moss research infrastructure and atmospheric observatory

Established in 1995, Auchencorth Moss has been used as a core field facility for research projects and measurement campaigns to study the long-term changes in atmospheric composition. Work at Auchencorth draws together UK, EU and global monitoring networks of air quality and ecosystem research; co-locating these observations is critical to understanding the interactions between the atmospheric components and ecosystems. Research is focused on nitrogen oxides, ozone, isoprene, photochemistry, aerosol composition and precipitation chemistry.

Auchencorth Moss is Scotland’s largest air quality monitoring station and one of two UK rural air quality supersites monitoring air pollution under the UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP). Auchencorth Moss is integrated into all the UK air quality monitoring networks for reporting to the Air Quality Directive, the EMEP programme and other environmental legislation. Auchencorth observations feed into international networks:

  • World Meteorological Organisation – Global Atmospheric Watch (WMO-GAW) – Auchencorth is designated as a regional station providing high-quality data on the chemical composition of the atmosphere and meteorological parameters. This global network allows for a better understanding of natural and anthropogenic changes over time, and improves the understanding of interactions between the atmosphere, the oceans and the biosphere.
  • Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS) – This European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC) is a long-term climate and ecosystem research programme. Auchencorth Moss is the only ecosystem station in the UK. The measurements improve the understanding of the carbon cycle and greenhouse gas budgets in relation to ecosystem processes.
  • ACTRIS (Aerosol, Clouds and Trace Gases Research Infrastructure) – ACTRIS is a research infrastructure which supports WMO-GAW science. ACTRIS is currently in the process of becoming an ERIC, and if the UK joins it will commit to a further 30 years of trace gas and aerosol data recording at Auchencorth.
  • eLTER (Long-Term Ecosystem Research in Europe) –  A developing Research Infrastructure focusing on long-term environmental trends and whole ecosystem research. It is also working towards becoming an ERIC. Air measurements made at Auchencorth Moss can be used to interpret ecological changes in Midlothian and across southern Scotland.

Auchencorth is listed in the UKRI InfraPortal and included on the UKRI research infrastructure roadmap, which includes large, long-term research facilities linked to European Research Infrastructures.

Through this integrated programme of work, Auchencorth Moss routinely reports over 300 chemical and physical properties of the atmosphere, with data publicly and freely available on UK-Air (DEFRA), the Scottish Air Quality database, the Natural Environment Research Council Data Repository for Atmospheric Science and Earth Observation (CEDA) and EBAS. The site is also able to host national and international scientists, universities, consultancies, and MSc/PhD students. Data from the site has been used in over 115 ISI published papers, and many government reports.

Whim Bog Long Term Ecology Experiment

Established in 2002, Whim Bog is a globally unique long-term nitrogen manipulation experiment studying the response of sensitive peatland ecosystems to different levels and forms of nitrogen deposition.

Whim research focuses on studying the effects of the dry deposition of ammonia from an agricultural point source, and the effects of wet deposition of nitrogen pollutants to a peatland ecosystem. Measurements aim to record long-term changes in species and composition, peat chemistry, plant physiological responses and changes to the habitat/ecosystem.

Whim is integrated into national and international networks including:

  • eLTER (Long-Term Ecosystem Research in Europe) which focuses on long-term trends in environmental and ecological changes. Whim provides one of the “manipulation sites” which can be used to verify observed ecosystem shifts across Europe, but also provides a blanket bog research facility
  • ECT (Ecological Continuity Trust) which works to promote and secure a UK strategic network of long-term experiments that are high quality experiments that aim to provide evidence for policymaking and sustainable land use.

The site is also a hub for nitrogen researchers, attracting international scientists to assess nitrogen impacts in their scientific fields. The site has generated over 80 ISI research papers and many government reports, as well as hosting > 37 PhD and MSc students. Whim has helped to provide the evidence base showing impacts on ecosystems for the UK Clean Air Strategy (2018) and the formulation of Critical levels for the UNECE.

Whim Bog

External website


  • To deliver long-term world-class research and innovation infrastructures for UK and international scientist to study anthropogenic and natural drivers of atmospheric composition, fluxes and air quality impacts
  • To integrate long-term biogeochemical, climatic, environmental and biodiversity measurements leading to vital new knowledge and understanding of how changes affect society and environmental change and resilience
  • To underpin national, European and international research collaborations, and networks by providing integrated measurement platforms
  • To provide key facilities to support new ideas and pilot studies, test new and existing atmospheric monitoring equipment and provide training for PhD and MSc students.


Papers and publications

Research facilities

  • Auchencorth Moss
  • Whim Bog
  • Easter Bush (atmospheric composition from farming)
  • Glencorse (woodland nitrogen effects)
  • Bush Cabins (meteorological and atmospheric chemistry)
  • Bush Central (test site for new techniques).

Communication and presentations

Project lead - Matthew Jones