Soil greenhouse gas fluxes, environmental controls and the partitioning of N2O sources in UK natural and semi-natural land use types.

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Natural and semi-natural terrestrial ecosystems (unmanaged peatlands and forests, extensive and intensive grasslands) have been under-represented in the UK greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory. Mechanistic studies of GHG fluxes and their controls can improve the prediction of the currently uncertain GHG annual emission estimates. The source apportionment of N2O emissions can further inform management plans for GHG mitigation. We have measured in situ GHG fluxes monthly in two replicated UK catchments and evaluated their environmental controlling factors. An adapted 15N-Gas Flux method with low addition of 15N tracer (0.03 - 0.5 kg 15N ha-1) was used to quantify the relative contribution of denitrification to net N2O production. Total N2O fluxes were 40 times higher in the intensive grasslands than in the peatlands (range: -1.32 to 312.3 μg N m-2 h-1). The contribution of denitrification to net N2O emission varied across the land use types and ranged from 9 to 60%. Soil moisture was the key parameter regulating the partitioning of N2O sources (r2=0.46). Total N2O fluxes were explained by a simple model (r2=0.83) including parameters such as total dissolved nitrogen, organic carbon and water content. A parsimonious model with the soil moisture content as a single scalar parameter explained 84% of methane flux variability across land uses. The assumption that 1% of the atmospherically deposited N on natural ecosystems is emitted as N2O, could be over or under-estimated (0.3 – 1.6%). The use of land use specific N2O emission factors and further information on N2O source partitioning should help constrain this uncertainty.


Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sep 2017