Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

Emissions of methane, nitrous oxide, and other trace gases from rice fields in China


  • M. A. K. Khalil,

  • R. A. Rasmussen,

  • M. J. Shearer,

  • Zong-Liang Chen,

  • Heng Yao,

  • Jun Yang


We measured the emissions of methane, nitrous oxide, and other environmentally important trace gases from rice fields in China. The experiments were conducted near Beijing, representing temperate latitude rice agriculture, and at Guangzhou, representing tropical and subtropical agriculture. These studies complement our intensive research at Tu Zu in China (subtropical) and the work near Bogor, Indonesia, representing tropical rice agriculture. The experiments described here span 5 years between 1992 and 1996. The seasonally averaged methane emissions from Beijing were about 9 (5–16) mg m−2 h−1. Emissions from the first crop of the year at Guangzhou were about 5 (2–8) mg m−2 h−1 and about 30 (18–54) mg m−2 h−1 from the second crop. Measurements of nitrous oxide fluxes from the same rice fields show that emissions are confined to events that consist of high fluxes decaying to zero within a few days. Some of the events appear to be triggered by fertilizer applications. It is apparent that rice fields using nitrogen-based fertilizers are a source of N2O, but a robust estimate of whole season average emission rate is still not possible. The composite of all the N2O fluxes we observed gives a geometric mean of about 70 μg m−2 h−1. These rates are high enough to suggest that the rice fields could be a globally important source of N2O. As the agricultural practices change from use of organic fertilizers to nitrogen-based fertilizers, the role of N2O emissions from rice fields may become more important in its global budget. We also observed that chloroform and carbon monoxide were emitted from all fields studied. The flux of CO is not large enough to be important on the global scale, but the emissions of chloroform may be.