Wetting-induced pulses produced unexpectedly high emissions of N2O and NOx in a desert ecosystem

Monday, 14 December 2015: 09:15
2008 (Moscone West)
Jennifer R Eberwein, Chelsea Carey, Emma L Aronson and Darrel Jenerette, University of California Riverside, Riverside, CA, United States
Approximately one third of Earth’s land surface is subjected to arid conditions, and aridland soils have the potential for significant feedbacks to global climate change drivers, such as anthropogenic nitrogen deposition. This study examined wetting-induced pulses of N2O and NOx along a nitrogen deposition gradient in the Colorado Desert of southern California. Measurements were made before and following water (to simulate a 2 cm rain event) and nitrogen plus water additions (30 kg NH4NO3 ha-1) at 15 minutes, 12 hours and 24 hours post-wetting. We found nitrogenous fluxes that were substantially higher than expected. N2O fluxes, in particular were remarkably high reaching up to 200 ng N2O-N m-2 s-1, similar to agriculture levels and in the range of peat bog emissions. There was a clear transition between N2O emissions, which peaked 15 minutes after wetting, and NOx emissions, which peaked at the 12 hour timepoint. NOx emissions were also considerable, reaching as high as 350 ng NOx-N m-2 s-1. Both N2O and NOx fluxes responded strongly to water additions, demonstrating a clear wetting-induced pulse response. While N2O was not affected by nitrogen additions, NOx fluxes demonstrated a significant increase with nitrogen plus water over water alone (p=0.016). These results suggest that gaseous nitrogen export, particularly N2O emissions, is a greater form of nitrogen loss in arid systems than is currently assumed. This potential for high nitrogen emissions and the capacity for anthropogenic nitrogen deposition to increase these emissions present serious implications for local air quality and significant soil feedbacks to climate change.