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Spatial modelling of nitrous oxide emissions at the national scale using soil, climate and land use information


A. Lilly, tel. +44 1224 395000, fax +44 1224 395010, e-mail:


Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a powerful greenhouse gas. The UK government is committed to reducing all greenhouse gas emissions and is required to make an inventory of the sources and emissions of these gases. Here, we extend work from a pilot study at the catchment scale reported in an earlier paper. This paper reports on the upscaling measurements of emissions to derive annual emission rates for specific combinations of soil type, land management and fertiliser practices to the national scale. Digital soil, climate and land use maps were combined within Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software. Upscaling of field emissions measurements involves adjusting measured annual N2O emissions to fit combinations of crop growth cycles, soil wetness and the amount and timing of fertiliser applications. We have also taken account of the differences in emission rates from grazed pasture land due to differences in land management between land utilised for dairy production and land utilised for beef production. Calculated annual emission rates were then spatially scaled to derive national figures through the use of a GIS modelling framework, termed NitOx. The annual emission of N2O from Scotland was determined as approximately 6 000 000 kg N yr−1 (2.8 Mt carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalents) and compares favourably with other national scale estimates such as the IPCC (1997). The combination of animal grazing, high N inputs, climatic warmth and poorly drained soils means that the south west contributes significantly to the national total N2O emissions. Localised areas of high emission can also be identified, but identification could be improved by applying this modelling approach at a larger scale. It would be beneficial to target these areas with mitigation strategies.

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