Nitrogen oxide gas emissions from temperate forest soils receiving long-term nitrogen inputs


Rodney T. Venterea, USDA-ARS, 439 Borlaug Hall, 1991 Upper Buford Circle, University of Minnesota, St Paul, MN 55108-6028, USA, tel. +612 624 7842, fax +651 649 5175, e-mail:


From spring 2000 through fall 2001, we measured nitric oxide (NO) and nitrous oxide (N2O) fluxes in two temperate forest sites in Massachusetts, USA that have been treated since 1988 with different levels of nitrogen (N) to simulate elevated rates of atmospheric N deposition. Plots within a pine stand that were treated with either 50 or 150 kg N ha−1 yr−1 above background displayed consistently elevated NO fluxes (100–200 µg N m−2 h−1) compared to control plots, while only the higher N treatment plot within a mixed hardwood stand displayed similarly elevated NO fluxes. Annual NO emissions estimated from monthly sampling accounted for 3.0–3.7% of N inputs to the high-N plots and 8.3% of inputs to the Pine low-N plot. Nitrous oxide fluxes in the N-treated plots were generally < 10% of NO fluxes. Net nitrification rates (NRs) and NO production rates measured in the laboratory displayed patterns that were consistent with field NO fluxes. Total N oxide gas flux was positively correlated with contemporaneous measurements of NR and inline image concentration. Acetylene inhibited both nitrification and NO production, indicating that autotrophic nitrification was responsible for the elevated NO production. Soil pH was negatively correlated with N deposition rate. Low levels (3–11 µg N kg−1) of nitrite (inline image) were detected in mineral soils from both sites. Kinetic models describing NO production as a function of the protonated form of inline image (nitrous acid [HNO2]) adequately described the mineral soil data. The results indicate that atmospheric deposition may generate losses of gaseous NO from forest soils by promoting nitrification, and that the response may vary significantly between forest types under similar climatic regimes. The lowering of pH resulting from nitrification and/or directly from deposition may also play a role by promoting reactions involving HNO2.