Using δ15 N- and δ18 O-NO to Evaluate Mechanisms of Nitric Oxide Production Following the Wetting of Dry Soil

Monday, 15 December 2014
Peter M Homyak1, Joshua Schimel1 and James O Sickman2, (1)University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, United States, (2)University of California Riverside, Riverside, CA, United States
In xeric environments, where soils can remain dry for more than 6 months, abrupt transitions from dry-to-wet conditions produce NO pulses within seconds after soils wet up. During these periods of intense gaseous N production, biological processes (nitrification and denitrification) are known to control NO fluxes, but it is not clear how soil microbes can recover from drought-induced stress within seconds after soils wet up. Are NO pulses immediately following rewetting more so controlled by abiotic NO-producing reactions? Because biotic and abiotic mechanisms can occur simultaneously, distinguishing between these processes can be problematic. To understand the contribution of biotic and abiotic processes to NO pulses, and to better inform biogeochemical models, we measured the δ15N- and δ18O-NO following a field soil rewetting experiment in a California annual grassland. In October, during the end of the dry season, we artificially watered soils and captured NO emissions for up to 15 minutes, 1 hour, 1 day, and 3 days after wet-up. Pulses of NO following the wetting of dry soil were explained by a two-component mixing model, where two distinct sources or processes produced NO. Within 15 minutes after soil wet-up, the isotopic composition of soil NO (δ15N =-8.95 ‰, δ18O=14.28 ‰) was similar to that of atmospheric samples (δ15N =-4.45 ‰, δ18O=15.20 ‰), but became increasingly depleted after 1 hour (δ15N =-21.08 ‰, δ18O=0.53 ‰), and more so after 1 day (δ15N =-37.44 ‰, δ18O=-9.45 ‰). After 3 days, the isotopic composition of NO (δ15N =-28.31 ‰, δ18O=-2.07 ‰) began to return to pre-wet-up conditions closely following the two-component mixing line. We conclude that NO-producing reactions immediately after the wetting of dry soil (up to 15 min) are different than those occurring after 1 hour post-wetting. We hypothesize that abiotic processes control the initial response to wetting, but that biological processes, which discriminate against heavier isotopes, begin to operate within 1 hour post-wetting. Ongoing isotope enrichment techniques will be used to further understand mechanisms of NO production following the wetting of dry soil.