Document Type

Theses, Ph.D


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Environmental and geological engineering

Publication Details

A thesis presented to Technological University Dublin for the award of PhD, July 2022.


Air quality monitoring in Ireland is under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency in compliance with the Gothenburg Protocol, EU/national legislation, and the National Clean Air Strategy. Particulate Matter (PM) has been acknowledged as a key atmospheric pollutant, with serious public health impacts and no safe threshold of exposure in place to-date. Ammonia (NH3) emissions are linked to the secondary production of PM through atmospheric reactions occurring with acidic atmospheric components such as sulfuric acid, nitric acid, and hydrochloric acid. These reactions result in the formation of ammonium sulfate, ammonium nitrate and ammonium chloride, among others. More than 95% of NH3 emissions occurring in Ireland arise from agriculture, with minor contributions from transport and natural sources.

This study aims to advance knowledge and understanding of the role of arable agricultural practices and management in NH3 enrichment and aid in mapping of the sources of PM production. The nature and contribution of NH3 in the atmosphere to secondary PM in defined arable settings will be examined to provide greater insight into system dynamics facilitating emission control and mitigation measures to be implemented. This will be achieved through a review of existing literature and database assessment combined with the application of a localised field monitoring network in arable agricultural settings.

As Ireland currently has no active atmospheric NH3 monitoring in place, reported emission levels can prove to be imprecise. And lead to over- and under-estimation of NH3 gas emissions to the atmosphere from sources such as agriculture. By establishing localized monitoring stations at emission sources, the precision of the estimated NH3 concentrations in the atmosphere can be improved. This can also lead to improved understanding of PM dynamics and formation. This will be achieved by using a combination of active and passive sampling instruments for in-field atmospheric sample collection, which will then be analysed in the laboratory using ion chromatography. Additionally, to gain a fuller understanding of the dynamics of an agricultural system, background monitoring of soil properties and water nutrient enrichment will also be carried out.

The output of this project will build on existing theories of NH3, and PM dynamics established by previous research, and combine these with field data, including agricultural practices, NH3 source production and PM generation, soil and water enrichment and quality background monitoring to synthesise a new mechanistic paradigm. This new understanding will be operationalised through the development of a conceptual model of NH3 dynamics and PM generation, and agri-ecological interactions known as Conceptual Ammonia-aeroSol bIOspheric Simulation (CASIOS). The model builds on a Drivers, Pressures, State, Impacts, Responses framework, with an additional attribute introduced under the term ‘Concept’ which includes environmental conditions previously not considered under this paradigm.