The impact of sampling frequency and sampling times on chamber-based measurements of N2O emissions from fertilized soils


Keith A. Smith, tel +44 131650 7721, fax +44 131662 0478, e-mail


An automated closed-chamber system was developed to measure N2O fluxes in the field. It was deployed at two N-fertilized grassland sites in two successive years, together with replicated manual chambers, to investigate the spatial and temporal variability in fluxes, and the likely impact of sampling frequency on cumulative flux values. The automated system provided flux data at 8-h intervals, while manual sampling was conducted at intervals of 3–7 days. The autochambers showed fluctuations in emissions not detected by manual sampling. However, integrated flux values based on the more intensive measurements were on average no more than 14% greater than those based on data from the autochambers that were obtained at the same time as manual sampling. This difference was not significant and well within the spatial variability determined with manual chambers. If daily sampling intervals were used immediately after fertilization, the agreement was closer still, increasing the confidence that can be placed in manual procedures. Diurnal variations in temperature and flux were small, and results from sampling at mid-day were not significantly different from those based on early morning or evening sampling. Where diurnal fluctuations in temperature and flux are likely to be much larger, the autochamber/sampler system could prove very useful to quantify the effect.