Testing the Hole-in-the-Pipe Model of nitric and nitrous oxide emissions from soils using the TRAGNET Database


  • Eric A. Davidson,

  • Louis V. Verchot


Because several soil properties and processes affect emissions of nitric oxide (NO) and nitrous oxide (N2O) from soils, it has been difficult to develop effective and robust algorithms to predict emissions of these gases in biogeochemical models. The conceptual “hole-in-the-pipe” (HIP) model has been used effectively to interpret results of numerous studies, but the ranges of climatic conditions and soil properties are often relatively narrow for each individual study. The Trace Gas Network (TRAGNET) database offers a unique opportunity to test the validity of one manifestation of the HIP model across a broad range of sites, including temperate and tropical climates, grasslands and forests, and native vegetation and agricultural crops. The logarithm of the sum of NO + N2O emissions was positively and significantly correlated with the logarithm of the sum of extractable soil NH4+ + NO3. The logarithm of the ratio of NO:N2O emissions was negatively and significantly correlated with water-filled pore space (WFPS). These analyses confirm the applicability of the HIP model concept, that indices of soil N availability correlate with the sum of NO+N2O emissions, while soil water content is a strong and robust controller of the ratio of NO:N2O emissions. However, these parameterizations have only broad-brush accuracy because of unaccounted variation among studies in the soil depths where gas production occurs, where soil N and water are measured, and other factors. Although accurate predictions at individual sites may still require site-specific parameterization of these empirical functions, the parameterizations presented here, particularly the one for WFPS, may be appropriate for global biogeochemical modeling. Moreover, this integration of data sets demonstrates the broad ranging applicability of the HIP conceptual approach for understanding soil emissions of NO and N2O.