Abstract The Mediterranean Basin presents an extraordinary biological richness but very little information is available on the threat that air pollution, and in particular reactive nitrogen (N), can pose to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. This study represents the first approach to assess the risk of N enrichment effects on Spanish ecosystems. The suitability of EMEP and CHIMERE air quality model systems as tools to identify those areas where effects of atmospheric N deposition could be occurring was tested. For this analysis, wet deposition of NO3− and NH4+ estimated with EMEP and CHIMERE model systems were compared with measured data for the period 2005–2008 obtained from different monitoring networks in Spain. Wet N deposition was acceptably predicted by both models, showing better results for oxidized than for reduced nitrogen, particularly when using CHIMERE. Both models estimated higher wet deposition values in northern and northeastern Spain, and decreasing along a NE–SW axis. Total (wet+dry) nitrogen deposition in 2008 reached maxima values of 19.4 and 23.0kgNha−1year−1 using EMEP and CHIMERE models respectively. Total N deposition was used to estimate the exceedance of N empirical critical loads in the Natura 2000 network. Grassland habitats proved to be the most threatened group, particularly in the northern alpine area, pointing out that biodiversity conservation in these protected areas could be endangered by N deposition. Other valuable mountain ecosystems can be also threatened, indicating the need to extend atmospheric deposition monitoring networks to higher altitudes in Spain.