In-Situ Denitrification and N2O Emission from Natural and Semi-natural Land Use Types in two UK Catchments

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Fotis Sgouridis and Sami Ullah, Keele University, Keele, United Kingdom
Whilst data and understanding of the controls of denitrification process and the subsequent emission of N2O at microbial and plot scale exist, quantification of in situ annual denitrification rates at catchment scales is scarce due to methodological constraints in measuring in situ denitrification in large temporal and spatial scales. In situ denitrification (DNT) was measured monthly (April 2013 - October 2014) in organic (peat bog, heathland, acid grassland), forest (mixed and deciduous), and grassland (improved and semi-improved) land use types in the Ribble-Wyre and Conwy River catchments in the UK. A static chamber technique according to the 15N-Gas Flux method1 was employed for quantifying the fluxes of 15N-N2 and 15N-N2O gases after labelling the soil with 98 at% K15NO3- at tracer level amounts (10% of the ambient nitrate concentration) and sampling the chamber headspace at 0, 1, 2 and 20 hour intervals. The DNT rates ranged between 0 and 2.3 mg N m-2 h-1 and were significantly influenced by land use type (p<0.05). The annual denitrification rate of organic and forest soils (4 kg N ha-1 y-1) was 3 and 6 times less than that of semi-improved (12 kg N ha-1 y-1) and improved (23 kg N ha-1 y-1) grassland soils, respectively. The N2O emission, due to denitrification, followed a similar trend with lower fluxes from organic and higher from improved grassland soils (range: 0 – 0.04 mg N m-2 h-1), whilst the N2O:N2 ratio ranged between 0.2 and 4%. The relative contribution of denitrification to net N2O flux varied temporally and across the different land use types and ranged from 0.2 to 75%. The 15N-Gas Flux method can be successfully applied in a variety of land use types for relatively high temporal and spatial resolution measurement of in situ denitrification and the simultaneous quantification of N2 and N2O fluxes due to denitrification. Therefore the ratio of N2O:N2 and also the source apportionment for N2O can be estimated more accurately. The results suggested a difference in DNT rates between unmanaged/ low nitrate content versus managed/ high nitrate content land use types, which was further supported by the significant positive correlation between DNT and soil nitrate content.

1R. Stevens and R. Laughlin, Nutr. Cycling Agroecosyst., 1998, 52, 131-139.