Nitrogen fertilizer increases nitrous oxide, but not dinitrogen, emissions from moist tropical forest soils in Puerto Rico

Monday, 14 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Maya Almaraz1, Stephen Porder1 and Peter M Groffman2, (1)Brown University, Providence, RI, United States, (2)Cary Inst Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, NY, United States
Nitrogen (N) deposition in tropical forests may increase substantially in coming decades, stimulating a concomitant increase of soil N gas emissions (dinitrogen (N2), nitrous (N2O) and nitric oxides). How N deposition might alter the relative emissions of these gases is unclear, and has ramifications for the global climate since N2O is a potent greenhouse gas. We used a small-scale fertilization study in the Luquillo Experimental Forest (LEF) of Puerto Rico to simulate the effects of N deposition on N gas emissions. Fertilizer was applied by placing mesh bags filled with ammonium saturated weak cation exchange resin directly on the mineral soil for two months. At that time, intact soil cores (0-10cm) were taken from below the bags. The cores were shipped to the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, where they were incubated in a helium headspace with either 0 or 20% oxygen (O2), and analyzed for N2 and N2O emissions. N fertilization increased N2O emissions fourfold (p=0.03). N2O production was positively correlated with field soil moisture (r=0.45, p=0.002), and was higher under 20% than 0% atmospheric O2 (p=0.003). With the exception of a handful of samples, we detected no measureable N2 production from these soils, and fertilization did not influence N2 production. This may have been because our experiment occurred during a drought that reduced soil moisture in the field by ∼20%. We have found that N2 emissions correlate with soil moisture elsewhere in the LEF. While we conclude that N deposition may not influence the N2O:N2 of soil emissions under such conditions, it is still unclear whether this result would hold under higher rainfall.